Kaufman County Judge Erleigh Norville Wiley, who is Gov. Rick Perry's appointed choice to replace slain DA Mike McLelland, is empathetic to the community that she will help protect. It's in peril, Wiley said, and she vowed to use her power to find those behind the high profile killings that plague it.
"There is danger," she said of taking the position. "But, I mean, we're all in danger here in Kaufman County because until we figure out who's done these horrible things ... we're still all in danger. I don't know if I'm stuck in any more danger than I was then. I think we have to step up."
Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed outside the county courthouse on Jan. 31. Eight weeks later, D.A. Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were murdered in their Forney home. Gov. Perry on Wednesday announced Wiley as his choice to step in for the remainder of McLelland's term. The issue must be approved by the Senate, which Wiley expects to be addressed next Wednesday.
She spoke to the media in her native Kaufman to express her gratitude to the governor and the agencies investigating the killings. Authorities remain mum on details of the investigation, however, they say tips are being called in regularly.The reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment has swelled to $200,000.
Wiley has not been briefed about the status of the search for the killer or killers, thus would not speak about it. She did seek to assure the county that, if approved, her office will continue to prosecute cases as it has in the past while assisting when it can in prosecuting those responsible for the slayings.
"We're going to keep handling the same things we've always handled," she said. "We're going to be the best district attorney's office this size in the state of Texas."
The office will continue to handle cases of varying severity, from misdemeanors to capital crimes. She said the governor's appointment staff contacted her earlier in the week and asked if she would be interested in taking the position.
"I was honored and I'm glad to step in and do it," she said. "I can do this."
She was not sure whether there were other candidates for the job and also declined to comment on who will replace her on the bench.
"You'll have to ask the commissioners of Kaufman County along with county Judge Bruce Wood. There'll be a process set up," she said. "I can only hold so many offices at one time."
Pending Senate approval,Wiley, 49, will hold that office until the general election in 2014 pending Senate approval. For more information about Wiley, take a look at this report from News 8's Jonathan Betz. But for now, Wiley says she's eager to begin working.
"So hold on," she said, "let's get going."