Authorities search home of former Kaufman Co. JP who had ties to slain prosecutors

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by JASON TRAHAN & MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 19 at 9:39 AM

House search

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Investigators on Friday searched the home of former Kaufman County justice of the peace Eric Lyle Williams, who has previously been questioned in the murders of District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia and prosecutor Mark Hasse.

Federal and local agencies, including the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department, the FBI and Texas Rangers, served the search warrant at 3:30 p.m. The document is sealed. Investigators are also searching the home of a relative and the neighborhood is blocked off. 

Investigators working in the driveway of Williams' home collected computers, files, and guns, according to one source.

One storeowner, whose place of business is nearby the neighborhood, told News 8 that unmarked vehicles have been in his parking lot for the last two weeks and Texas Rangers have been asking about cameras placed on his buildings. The storeowner, Ray Rubio, also tells us that traffic up and down the roads are being closely monitored by officers.

"They asked if we noticed anything suspicious," Rubio said.

Williams has not been named a suspect in the murders of Hasse or McLelland.

In March 2012, Williams, 46, was convicted of theft by a public servant and burglary of a building. He was caught on courthouse surveillance coming and going from the county's IT department clutching computer monitors.

McLelland and Hasse aggressively prosecuted Williams. During the trial, Hasse hurled insults at him, calling Williams a "liar," "crooked official" and a "thief," the Forney Post reported.

Quoting from the paper, in closing arguments Hasse said: “The Defendant’s actions are incredible beyond belief and stupid. Do we really need to do an official County memo that says do not steal from the County. Do not circumvent the county’s security measures.”

During last year's corruption trial, the courthouse was on heightened alert considering Williams was in law enforcement and an elected judge. Williams is also a member of the Texas State Guard. When his vehicle was searched in the computer theft case, authorities testified they found several military-style weapons and a "considerable" amount of ammunition, the Post reported. 

"I feel that this whole thing began because of a misunderstanding," he told investigators, according to court documents. "I never committed a theft. If I was going to steal something from the IT department, I surely would not do so exposing myself to video cameras."

In a dramatic development during Williams' corruption trial, Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood testified that the former justice of the peace had asked him in a letter to use his influence to call off the criminal investigation against him. Wood declined.

The Post quoted Hasse as saying, "The Defendant did not ask Judge Wood to investigate to help clear this up because he is innocent. In the letter he accepts responsibility. He says I’ve done something wrong, and I’ve learned my lesson, hoping for some kind of back-door favor. He is an elected public servant and he is a thief and a liar. We ask you to find him guilty.”

During the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutor Hasse revealed that Williams threatened to kill an ex-girlfriend in Huntsville "involving the display of a handgun," according to court records. He also threatened the life of a Kaufman attorney and his family in 2010, according to prosecutor's records. 

Williams is appealing his convictions. 

In Nov. 2011, Williams' attorney filed a motion to disqualify District Attorney McLelland from the case. 

"The indictment of Mr. Williams was not the result of a crime having been committed as much as it was an attempt to settle a political grudge," wrote San Marcos-based Attorney David Sergi in the motion. "Mr. Williams and Mr. McLelland are political enemies, nothing more." 

Last month, hours after McLelland and his wife were found murdered in their Forney home, Williams volunteered to give a swab of his hand to authorities so they could search for gun residue. He also voluntarily gave officials his cell phone.

On April 10, Williams emailed News 8 a statement saying he did not want to be interviewed, but commented on the investigation. 

"There have just been too many people coming around and I don’t want to be any part of this.  Everyone needs to focus on finding tips, clues, or whatever it takes to find the killers."

Friday, Williams' attorney, David Sergi, released another statement about his client.

"Eric simply does not want any more comments to feed a media frenzy which seems to have overtaken him. As mentioned in the press release, he has cooperated with law enforcement and vigorously denies any and all allegations. He wishes simply to get on with his life and hopes that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

After Hasse's Jan. 31 murder, McLelland told News 8 that he himself didn't put much credence in the theory that his prosecutor's murder was orchestrated by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Investigators are looking at links between the prison gang and the Hasse and McLelland killings. No evidence has been made public that any members are connected.

Hasse "had received no threats from any prison gangs because I'm pretty sure he would have told me about them," McLelland told News 8 in an email on March 26. "He was not acting fearful or paranoid and he sure wasn't scared of anyone he prosecuted. He also was not investigating any prison gangs."

He added: "His dealings with Aryan Brotherhood cases we handled was strictly peripheral, just knowing about them and occasionally lending assistance here in the office."

News 8's Jobin Panicker and Rebecca Lopez contributed to this story

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