Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Texas Judge Convicted of Murdering DA’s Wife

ROCKWALL, Texas (CN) - A Texas jury took just 95 minutes Thursday to convict a former Kaufman County justice of the peace of murdering a district attorney's wife - one of three people he was accused of killing.

Eric Williams, 47, could face the death penalty for the murder of Cynthia McLelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland.

Williams was tried this week only for the murder of Cynthia McLelland, giving prosecutors a shot at prosecuting him later for two other killings, one by one.

The McLellands 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 .

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

During the four-day trial, prosecutors said Williams plotted to kill McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams' job and his disbarment. Prosecutors described an arsenal of tactical gear and firearms found at a storage shed that Williams rented, and a getaway vehicle they claim was driven by Williams' estranged wife, Kim.

Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes had granted a change of venue to neighboring Rockwall County due to widespread publicity in Kaufman County. Both counties are directly east of Dallas County.

Matthew Seymour, Williams' public defender, told the jury during closing arguments that the prosecution's case was built on circumstantial evidence.

"There is not one single piece of biometric evidence in this case," Seymour said Thursday. "There is no known murder weapon in this case ... there is not one piece of evidence. No DNA, no fingerprint, not one hair, nothing."

Seymour said there were no eyewitnesses and called the prosecution's case a "fantasy" and a "guess" with "no proof."

Williams declined to testify and no defense witnesses were called.

Prosecutor Toby Shook acknowledged the mountain of circumstantial evidence, but told the jury it collectively acts like a "net."

"Piece it all together," Shook said. "The evidence traps Eric Williams."

Shook cited two mistakes by Williams. First, that markings found on bullets in Williams' storage shed matched marks on the shell casings found in the McLellands' home. Williams' attorneys tried in November to get expert testimony on that ballistics evidence excluded, but failed.

Shook told jurors the ballistics evidence was Williams' "undoing."

"That seals his fate," Shook said. "That is a smoking gun, folks."

Shook said Williams' second mistake was contacting Kaufman County Crime Stoppers and sending an anonymous confession. A password provided by Crime Stoppers to the sender of the message was found during the execution of a warrant at Williams' home.

Prosecutor Bill Wirskye told jurors the murders were an "unprecedented assault on the foundation of the criminal justice system." He asked jurors who else could possibly hate the McLellands and frame Williams?

"If not Eric Williams, then who?" Wirskye asked.

Wirskye referred to Cynthia McLelland in response to Seymour's citing a lack of witnesses.

"There was an eyewitness, but he put a bullet in her brain," Wirskye said.

Immediately before closing arguments, Snipes denied Williams' motion for a mistrial due to the alleged broadcasting of juror names by the media during the live simulcasting of the trial.

Sentencing begins on Monday.

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