Eric Williams to face death penalty in Kaufman Co. murder case

Eric Williams (Source: Kaufman County Jail)
Eric Williams (Source: Kaufman County Jail)
Kim Williams (Source: Kaufman County Jail)
Kim Williams (Source: Kaufman County Jail)

KAUFMAN COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The state is seeking the death penalty for former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Eric Williams, who is charged with capital murder in the deaths of a Kaufman County assistant prosecutor as well as the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife. No decision has been made on whether or not to seek the death penalty for Williams' wife, Kim. The announcement was made on Friday at a hearing in a Kaufman County courtroom.

"At this point in time, everything is in the preliminary stage, and we don't have any decisions made. We will be making those decisions once they decide how they will proceed on Eric's case," said Paul Johnson, Kim Williams' attorney.

When asked how is client was doing Johnson replied, "That's about all I have to say."

The family of the victims of the slayings declined to comment following the hearing, however new Kaufman County District Attorney, Erleigh Norville Wiley, said they are doing considerably well considering the circumstances.

Jury selection will begin by next spring. A trial would begin in October 2014. Mike Snipes, a judge from Dallas, will preside over the case.

Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood says he hopes to seat a jury and hold the trial in Kaufman County.

"They are evil people to do what they have been accused of doing, assuming they are proven guilty after a fair and open trial. I'm sure they will be punished for their actions," Wood said.

Although the justice system is at work, Woods said he is not sure he will ever have the closure he needs.

"We are not back to normal; we will never go back to the normal we had before this occurred," Woods said.

Eric Williams was arrested on a terroristic threat charge after investigators discovered evidence he had made threats via electronic communication against Kaufman County officials shortly after Mike and Cynthia McLelland were killed on March 30.

The capital murder charge against Eric Williams came one day after his wife, 46-year-old Kim Williams, was arrested and charged with capital murder for her role in the deaths of Hasse and the McLellands. She is being held on a bond of $10 million.

In an interview with police, Kim Williams gave investigators details about the murders that were not available to the public. Kim Williams told police that her husband, Eric Williams was involved in the murder plot.

According to officials, Eric Williams was the triggerman in both killings. Kim Williams drove in the Hasse slaying and was a passenger in the car the night the McLellands were killed.

Mike and Cynthia McLelland were found shot to death in their Forney home on March 30, two months after Mark Hasse was gunned down while walking to the Kaufman County Courthouse on January 31.

In March 2012, Eric Williams was prosecuted by the Kaufman County district attorney's office for stealing equipment from Kaufman County. He was convicted and was removed from office. After that case, Hasse and Mike McLelland began carrying handguns because they believed Eric Williams was a threat to their safety.

Authorities said in arrest affidavits and in a Thursday press conference that they believe Williams' legal problems with the county may have led the couple to commit the crime.

"I don't know that I could assess the motive. It's kind of mind-boggling to me that someone would go out and shoot three innocent people for any motive," said Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes.

A search warrant obtained on Monday shows that the Williams' home was searched on Friday, April 12, in connection with the murders of Kaufman County Prosecutor Mark Hasse, and Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.

Eric Williams' arrest affidavit says that in searching his home and his in-law's home on April 12, investigators found numerous weapons, including rifles and revolvers that matched the calibers believed to kill the McLellands and Mark Hasse.

According to the arrest affidavit, Hasse's autopsy results revealed he was shot multiple times, "with what appeared to be a weapon capable of firing a .38 or .357 caliber cartridge and that the weapon used was possibly a Smith and Wesson or Ruger style weapon." Authorities recovered two .357 caliber handguns from Eric Williams' in-laws' home on April 12.

The arrest affidavit also reveals the McLellands were both shot multiple times, and that evidence at the scene suggested they were killed by "a weapon capable of firing a .223 caliber cartridge." Authorities recovered "come component parts of weapons consistent with an AR-style weapon, capable of firing .223 caliber ammunition like that used in the McLelland murders" during their search of Eric Williams' home on April 12.

However, Sheriff Byrnes said that finding a storage unit that Eric Williams had rented in Seagoville proved to be the break in the case. The arrest affidavit notes that Williams had purchased a 2004 White Ford Crown Victoria in February 2013 under the alias "Richard Greene." Williams had parked the Crown Victoria in the unit, which had been seen in security camera footage leaving the McLelland's neighborhood shortly after their murders.

The affidavit says security camera footage near the storage unit shows the Crown Victoria leaving the storage unit shortly before the McLelland murders and returning shortly after the McLelland murders. In addition, records at the storage facility indicate the storage unit was accessed shortly after Mark Hasse's death.

In addition to the Crown Victoria, authorities recovered 41 firearms from the storage unit, "including eight .223 caliber weapons, two .38 caliber handguns and one .357 caliber handgun, two .223 'lowers' with no 'uppers,'" and "ammunition consistent with that used during the Hasse ... and McLelland murders."

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