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Ex-Justice Of The Peace Found Guilty In Texas Revenge Killing

Eric Williams (right) makes his way into the courtroom on the second day of his capital murder trial at the Rockwall County Courthouse in Rockwall, Texas, on Tuesday.
Vernon Bryant
Eric Williams (right) makes his way into the courtroom on the second day of his capital murder trial at the Rockwall County Courthouse in Rockwall, Texas, on Tuesday.

A former Texas justice of the peace has been found guilty of capital murder in the shooting deaths of a district attorney, the DA's wife and an assistant prosecutor in a rural suburb of Dallas last year.

Eric Williams, 47, faces a possible death sentence for killing Cynthia McLelland, the wife of slain Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland. He has also been charged separately in the killings of Mike McLelland and prosecutor Mark Hasse, according to The Associated Press.

The prosecution argued that after Williams was caught stealing computer monitors and subsequently lost his law license and elected position, he concocted the murders out of revenge.

Williams' now-estranged wife, Kim, also has been charged with capital murder in the deaths, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The newspaper says: "Hasse, 57, was slain blocks from the Kaufman courthouse one morning in January 2013 by a masked man in black. The McLellands were gunned down two months later over Easter weekend inside their Forney home."

Williams was arrested the day after the McLellands were found dead in April 2013, after he sent an anonymous email from his personal computer, prosecutors said. The email implied that if authorities did not comply with various demands, there would be another attack, according to law enforcement documents.

The AP notes:

"The case was built on circumstantial evidence against Williams, and the weapon used to kill the McLellands has never been found.

" 'It's a fantasy. It's a guess. There's no proof of it,' defense attorney Matthew Seymour said in closing arguments.

"Prosecutors showed jurors evidence from a storage locker [Williams] had a friend rent in secret. Inside the locker were the suspected getaway vehicle, more than 30 guns and police tactical gear. A dive team that searched a local lake also found a gun believed to have been used to shoot Hasse and a mask Williams allegedly wore."

Prosecutors are convinced that Williams used an AR-15 military-style semi-automatic rifle in the killings. As part of the testimony, Scott Hunt, an acquaintance of Williams, said the defendant had asked to meet him in early January to discuss how to "get rid of an AR upper" — the portion of the weapon that would contain ballistic evidence once fired.

"Could you just make sure it never sees the light of day?" Hunt said Williams asked, according to testimony. "Make it disappear."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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