KAUFMAN –– Eric Williams, the former Kaufman County justice of the peace convicted of stealing computer equipment in 2012, was charged Thursday with allegedly murdering the district attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor.
Williams, 46, was previously jailed on a terroristic threat charge and was already in the Kaufman County Jail. His wife, Kim, joined him on Tuesday and was the first to be charged with capital murder in the case. An affidavit released on Wednesday revealed she confessed to the killings.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was fatally shot by a person wearing dark clothes and a hood or a mask outside the Kaufman County Courthouse on Jan. 31. On March 30, Mike and Cynthia McLelland were found shot to death inside their Forney home.
Williams’ arrest affidavit says Hasse was shot with a handgun capable of firing .38 or .357 caliber rounds, possibly a Smith and Wesson or a Ruger. No casings were found near where the assistant district attorney died.
Investigators found .223 caliber casings in the living room of the McLellands’ home, indicative of a rifle.
On Thursday, Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said Eric Williams was the shooter. His wife, said the sheriff, drove the getaway car when Hasse was shot and was in the passenger seat when the McLellands were killed.
Mr. Williams is jailed on $23 million bond. His wife is being held on $10 million bond. Neither have a listed attorney. Byrnes said the death penalty is a “viable option” should the district attorney decide to pursue it.
"I think by and large there is no more threat or danger today than there was six months ago," Byrnes said.
According to the arrest affidavit, two of Mr. Williams’ fellow Texas State Guard members provided critical information to authorities that helped secure the arrest warrant. Neither friend was identified in court documents. Both came forward to authorities on April 13.
One told police that Williams asked for help removing the part of a rifle that can be used to match its bullets to its casings. The other told investigators that Williams asked him to rent a storage unit for Williams in the friend's name. That storage unit, police say, is where Williams stored the white 2004 Ford Crown Victoria he allegedly used to drive to and from the McLelland murders.
Police said that Williams was caught on surveillance footage entering the storage unit in his black Ford Explorer Sport Trac and leaving in the Crown Victoria at the time of the McLelland killings, the affidavit says. That white Crown Victoria was also seen entering and exiting the McLellands’ neighborhood at the time of their murders.
Both of the Texas State Guard tipsters came forward about two weeks after the McLellands were killed. The storage unit was rented on Dec. 28, more than a month before Hasse’s death. The lunch conversation between Williams and one of the Texas State Guard witnesses occurred about a week later on Jan. 4.
Investigators say Williams held a deep grudge against McLelland and Hasse that dated back to 2012, when the two convicted him for stealing computer equipment from the county’s IT department.
They pushed hard for a maximum penalty of two years in prison in the case. Williams ended up getting probation. However, after the conviction, Williams lost his law license and testified that it would be difficult to continue to care for his wife without his work benefits.
The arrest affidavit says both prosecutors began carrying weapons after the trial because “they believed Eric Williams to be a threat to their personal safety.” After Hasse was killed, County Judge Bruce Wood said Mr. McLelland expressed concern that Williams killed Hasse.
"Mr. McLelland indicated to me very early, on the day of Mark's murder, that he felt like the person that needed to be investigated was Eric Williams," Wood said earlier this week.
After the district attorney and his wife were murdered, investigators paid Mr. Williams a visit. He volunteered a swab of his hand so authorities could check for the presence of gunpowder. His former attorney David Sergi, who has since resigned his post, said the tests were negative.
The Williams' home was searched on April 12. Investigators left with computers and files and found enough evidence to secure a warrant to get into a storage container in Seagoville. Inside was at least 41 weapons.
He was initially arrested for making a terroristic threat. Investigators traced Williams to an email sent after the McLelland murders that threatened more violence to Kaufman County public officials. The affidavit also says Williams used the county’s Lexis/Nexis account to research driver’s license records and address information for the men he’s accused of killing.
He spent an hour on Jan. 6 looking up information on both Hasse and Mr. McLelland. He used the legal research database tool again on Jan. 23 –– about a week before Hasse’s murder –– to look up information about the assistant district attorney and a neighbor.
The affidavit says investigators believe “that these searches are very possibly indicative of pre-offense surveillance of the victim.”
During the search, the affidavit says, police spotted a .44 Desert Eagle handgun, capable of firing a .223 cartridge. They also found four rifle stocks “compatible with an AR type rifle weapons platform,” which would also fire .223, the caliber casing found at the scene of the McLellands’ murders.
Also in the home were boxes believed to be the original packaging for Smith and Wesson handguns –– guns that fire the same .38 caliber cartridge that investigators believe killed Hasse.