Kaufman DA, wife remembered as 'true love story' at memorial

Print
Email
|

by BAILEY MCGOWAN & MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 4 at 6:19 PM

SUNNYVALE –– Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland was known for his service and the large-rimmed, black cowboy hat that was often affixed to his head. His wife, Cynthia, was best remembered as a kind, avid quilter who greeted strangers with a hug and her friends and family with a kiss.

Both were remembered as opposites who created a perfect balance at their memorial Thursday afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Sunnyvale. And lying in the closed coffin at the front of the church was Mr. McLelland, clutching an urn to his chest containing his wife's ashes. They will be buried together.

"If Cynthia was all warmth and motherhood, Mike was a warrior," said Bruce Bryant, chief investigator with the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office.

The couple, who were married for 28 years, were found shot dead Saturday at their home near Forney. An estimated 1,000 mourners –– including police, public officials and family and friends ––attended the service.

Led by Chris Heisler, president and co-founder of the Honor Network, Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood and Gov. Rick Perry were among those who spoke at the memorial.

"These two were a mismatched pair that fit perfectly," Wood said of the McLellands. "They were a true love story."

Wood shared how he and Mr. McLelland became close while campaigning together about three years ago. The judge said Mr. McLelland's wit and good work ethic stood out.

"He enjoyed being around people," Wood said. "He loved doing his job and he was just a delightful person."

He said he also got to know Mrs. McLelland, who he called "quite the opposite" of her husband with a more reserved attitude.

"What I remember so much about Cynthia is that she was always so much more concerned about how I felt or how my wife Susie felt than she was about herself," Wood said.

A friend of Mrs. McLelland, Tonya Ratcliff, who also serves as Kaufman County's tax assessor collector, said the district attorney's wife loved to sing and quilt.

"She had a way of pulling you in and making you feel instantly special," she said.

Perry said he last saw Mr. McLelland less than a month ago when the district attorney went to Austin to be honored by the Texas Senate and House.

"By any measure, we're capable of understanding we shouldn't be here today," Perry said. "Mike and Cynthia were too vibrant, too full of life to be gone so quickly."

The governor told the McLelland family they were not alone in their mourning or desire for justice.

"I'm not just talking about Kaufman County," he said. "I'm talking about the millions of people across this state that are standing with you during this tragedy, sharing your pain in a very real way."

The fact the shooter in the McLellands' murders is still at large hung over the ceremony. 

"I don't know what their murderer hoped to accomplish by killing these two great souls," Bryant said. "If it was anything other than his own gratification or robbing us of two of the best people God ever created, he failed. We will not stop pursuing justice; we will not give up the good fight."

The procession from a Grand Prairie funeral home to the memorial arrived at the First Baptist Church of Sunnyvale at about 11:25 a.m., more than an hour before the start.

At the same time the procession arrived, Perry announced from Kaufman County that his office is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in their shooting deaths. The announcement doubled the $100,000 offered by Kaufman County Crime Stoppers after Assistant D.A. Mark Hasse was fatally gunned down outside the courthouse in January. 

Police performed a security sweep of the church building Thursday morning before allowing memorial attendees inside the sanctuary. A pair of snipers were stationed atop the church as mourners arrived. 

Dallas and Tarrant County sheriff's deputies, state Game Wardens, Grand Prairie police and Richardson police joined the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department in securing the location.

Visitation is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Sunnyvale, located at 3018 North Belt Line Road.

The McLellands' funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Wortham, Mr. McLelland's hometown. 

WFAA's Jonathan Betz contributed to this report

Print
Email
|