Perry names judge new Kaufman County DA

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 11 at 2:24 AM

KAUFMAN — Kaufman County's newest district attorney admitted she has some fears after the murder of two prosecutors there, but insists she is ready to get to work.

"Sure, I’m worried, but we have good people that are watching us," said Judge Erleigh Norville Wiley after Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday he had chosen her to become Kaufman’s next DA.

"There are all these other elected officials that are in fear for their lives," she said. "It's not just me... we’re going to keep working."

Wiley, 49, will finish out the term of Mike McLelland, 63, who was killed along with his wife, Cynthia, in their Forney home on March 30.

Once the appointment is confirmed by the Texas Senate, Wiley will hold the position until the general election in 2014.

"I'm really appreciative of the governor for appointing me, for thinking I could step in this chaos that’s been going on in our county," Wiley told reporters gathered outside the courthouse shortly after the announcement.

Wiley said she was surprised by the news; the governor’s office called her a few minutes before the announcement was made public.

"I think I can do a good job," she said. "I was honored."

The new position thrusts her into a very high profile position after the murder of two of Kaufman’s prosecutors this year. Two months before McLelland’s killing, his top deputy, Mark Hasse, was gunned down in the town square.

Deputies have made no arrests in either case.

County leaders considered dozens of applicants to replace McLelland, some of whom were hesitant to accept the job.

Brandi Fernandez, an assistant district attorney in Kaufman County, held the position on an interim basis after McLelland’s murder and was considered a candidate. But the governor did not indicate why he selected Wiley.

She arrives in the office with constant security surrounding her and her family. Armed officers now escort county workers into and out of the courthouse each day.

"I think I can do this and not be scared," Wiley said.

Wiley was elected to the bench in 2003 after working in the Dallas County District Attorney's office for 14 years. Born and raised in Kaufman County, she said she wanted to return home and serve her community.

She attended Texas Tech University and got a law degree from the University of Texas.

In 2008, News 8 featured her in a news story after she decided to donate a kidney to her husband, federal prosecutor Aaron Wiley. The operation was conducted on Valentine’s Day.

"It wasn't a hard decision," she told News 8 at the time. "He gets the left kidney; I keep the right one."

Now she’s bracing for a new challenge.

"You can't be fearful. You just have to be prayerful," she said. "You have to know that we have good people that are going to protect us until justice is done."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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