KAUFMAN –– The state will seek the death penalty against the disgraced Kaufman County justice of the peace accused of murdering the county's district attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor.
Eric Williams and his wife Kim were indicted late last month on a pair of capital murder charges in the brazen killings of District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia and Assistant DA Mark Hasse. The state announced it would pursue the death penalty against Mr. Williams in a Friday morning hearing that lasted about five minutes in Kaufman County's south campus courtroom.
Mrs. Williams, who has filed for divorce, also appeared in court and acknowledged the charges against her. The state has not determined whether it will seek the death penalty in her case. That decision will come next week.
Dallas County Judge Michael Snipes, who was appointed to hear the case, tentatively set jury selection in Mr. Williams' trial for spring of 2014. The trial itself is scheduled to begin in October 2014. After the arrests, Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes called capital punishment a "viable option" should the district attorney decide to pursue it.
County Judge Bruce Wood told News 8's David Schechter he wants the trial held in Kaufman. The defense will seek a change of venue, arguing that the Williamses will not be able to have a fair trial if it's held in the county.
"I would find it hard to believe that a fair and impartial jury could not be empaneled," Wood said.
The Williamses, both 46, have been in custody at the Kaufman County jail since their arrests in April. Eric Williams is jailed on $23 million bond while Kim is held on $10 million bond.
Investigators say the couple planned the assassination style murders following the aggressive conviction of Eric Williams in 2012 for stealing county computer equipment from the IT department. After he was found guilty, Williams lost his law license and his job at the county. He testified it would be difficult to care for his wife without health benefits afforded by his job.
On Jan. 31, Hasse was gunned down on his way into the Kaufman County Courthouse spurring a monthslong search for those responsible. Nearly two months to the day later, the McLellands were found shot dead inside their Forney home.
According to affidavits unsealed after Mr. Williams was arrested, McLelland and Hasse both feared for their safety and began carrying guns after convicting Williams. Following Hasse’s murder, Judge Wood said that the district attorney expressed concern that Williams was behind the fatal shooting.
Investigators also found weapons that fire similar caliber bullets to what was used in each murder at a storage locker Mr. Williams was seen using and at the couple's household. Williams is also accused of using the county’s Lexis/Nexis account to research driver’s license records and address information belonging to those he is accused of killing.
The two were indicted on capital murder charges on June 27.
News 8's David Schechter and Marcus Moore contributed reporting