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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jury Sentences Texas|Peace Justice to Death

ROCKWALL, Texas (CN) - A state jury Wednesday sentenced a former Texas justice of the peace to death for murdering a district attorney's wife as "collateral damage" in his alleged killings of two prosecutors.

The Rockwall County jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon on the sentencing of Eric Williams, 47. He was convicted on Dec. 5 after a four-day trial for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.

The McClellands were gunned down in their home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman .

Prosecutors said during trial that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams's job and his disbarment.

The prosecution's star witness during the sentencing phase was Kim Williams, his estranged wife. She testified Tuesday that Williams planned to kill Mike McClelland during a holiday weekend when his security detail would be gone. She chillingly testified that Cynthia McClelland was killed as "collateral damage" because she was a witness to the shooting and that Williams had to shoot her again because she was "still moaning."

Accused as the getaway driver in all three murders, Kim Williams described the couple's joy and excitement after Hasse's murder. She shared her husband's anger at the prosecutor, she said.

The sentencing phase of the trial lasted two weeks, with defense attorneys calling a long line of character witnesses on Williams's behalf. The jury deliberated for three hours Tuesday before being sequestered for the night. They reached a verdict Wednesday morning.

Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes had harsh words for Williams after his sentence was read, comparing him to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

"You made yourself out to be some kind of Charles Bronson, a vigilante," Snipes said. "At the end of the day, you murdered a little old lady."

The murders rocked the close-knit town of Kaufman and forced authorities to provide security and bodyguards for judges and prosecutors .

"Kaufman County, you've been scared for a few years now," Snipes said. "There's no reason to be scared anymore."

Snipes had granted a change of venue from neighboring Kaufman County due to widespread publicity. Both Rockwall and Kaufman counties are directly east of Dallas County.

Williams did not testify in his defense. His attorneys claimed that the entire case was built on circumstantial evidence , with no murder weapon or eyewitnesses.

Kim Williams is awaiting trial.

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