The Killings in Kaufman

Two public officials dead and a third behind bars: Politics turn bloody in a small town.

Kaufman had never seen the like of it. Was this Mexico or Colombia? The county was on edge, besieged. In a town where folks once left their doors unlocked, county officials now wore body armor. State troopers and sheriff's deputies guarded them day and night. In churches all over the county, parishioners filled the chapels from dawn to dusk, praying to God to watch over their officials.

The focus on the Aryan Brotherhood intensified. Experts speculated about drug cartel involvement. The mystery of the assassinations drew national attention to a county few outside of North Texas had ever heard of. Network news satellite trucks crowded the courthouse square to follow the unbelievable story. Lawmen were being gunned down in broad daylight, on small-town streets, in the safety of their own homes.

In the coming weeks, however, its residents would be stunned by the plot uncovered by investigators. They weren't under attack by shadowy brotherhoods or cartels. Charges would fall on one of their own, a man the tight-knit legal community knew well. But for all this story's twists and turns, the truth is, what happened in Kaufman could have happened almost nowhere else. In this law-and-order county, its DA lived and died by the laws of God and men, and the thing he wouldn't tolerate was the violation of the public trust by those charged with keeping it. It didn't matter how insignificant the offense. An example would be made.

The murder cases that now stain Kaufman County began with two men who had dedicated their lives to the law. And neither would back down.


Becoming justice of the peace was the first step toward greater elected office for Eric Williams. He had his eye on the county court at law, and after that who knew? He was well-liked and respected in Kaufman legal circles. His background looked sterling: a member of Mensa; an honorably discharged Army lieutenant; a captain and weapons instructor in the Texas State Guard; a Kaufman County sheriff's reserve officer; and a licensed peace officer since the '80s.

He'd lived and breathed the law his whole life. He came up as a lawyer in this town, first as the coordinator for Judge Glen Ashworth of the 86th District Court, then with a thriving private practice. He made good impressions on people who mattered. Sandra Featherston, then the district clerk, saw him every day when he was a court coordinator and liked his respectful manner. "He was great to work with," she said, "always friendly and courteous."

He was a little quiet, maybe shy, until you got him going on guns or the law. Then he came alive. His wits were matched in equal measure by his eccentricity, at least by Kaufman standards. His next-door neighbor Richard Mohundro said he often heard the whir of Williams' Segway on Saturdays as he steered for his law office on the courthouse square, dressed in full combat fatigues. Occasionally, Williams and his wife, Kim, rode through the neighborhood together, he on the Segway, she on an adult-size tricycle. They played video games and often went to the gun range for target practice with a few of the many guns he owned — assault rifles and pistols of all kinds, including a powerful Desert Eagle. Kim was a sweetheart, Mohundro said, but sickly. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome — an autoimmune disorder that hinders tear and saliva production — and chronic fatigue. "She'd come out some days and say she didn't hardly feel like getting out of bed," Mohundro said.

She was a technician at the local hospital before her failing health forced her to quit. Williams himself was a diabetic and wore an insulin pump.

Over the years, his illness wore him down along with his wife's. Williams' career, on the other hand, was only burning brighter. He struck out on his own, started a law practice, handled nearly all of the county's child welfare cases as the guardian ad litem appointed by the court to represent children's interests. "When I first met him, he was what I'd call the golden boy," said attorney Tina M. Hall, a former friend and colleague. Williams wasn't the most experienced lawyer in town by any stretch, but he was treated like an encyclopedia for family law by attorneys with thorny legal conundrums. He looked at the law like a puzzle to be solved. When seemingly no law or precedent offered guidance for some of the "crazy stuff" they encountered in Child Protective Services cases, "Eric would find something in the statutes to solve the problem," Hall said.

It made him cocky, she said, and impatient. When he became director of the county law library, Williams resolved to bring the musty, analog institution into the digital age. But the glacial pace of the county information technology department frustrated the avid technophile. He often complained about its director, George York.

That didn't change much when Williams was elected JP of Precinct 1 in November 2010. The systems, he griped, were outdated. His predecessor didn't know how to send an email. "Eric was streamlining processes, doing a lot of good in the county," said Jenny Parks, an attorney and friend. "IT was giving him hell. George York and he did not get along."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
sirak63
sirak63

I see a movie in the works.   When the Governor selected selected the new DA I knew it wasn't the Aryan Brotherhood. I am not sure why they didn't ask for a change of venue in the original theft case, as  Williams had argued cases in Judge Chitty's court.  The next question remains where will it go from here? Mid May is supposed to be the theft appeal case- but Williams's lawyer has resigned.  There is enough for criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt  coupled with the confession. I hope they find a suitable venue for the trial as it would be the only thing that would hold back a true conviction.

garlandsucks
garlandsucks

a whose dick is bigger contest gone horribly awry...and the citizens of Kaufman, like myself, werent scared at all.  I did think it was funny that the prayer circles disappeared about the same time the TV news cameras did.

sophee
sophee

I am so relieved that Kaufman County located their three monitors. I hope it was all worth it.

ibivi56
ibivi56

It is quite unbelievable that one man destroyed another man over petty theft.  A terrible human tragedy.   

garlandsucks
garlandsucks

@sophee ---- a justice system that is about as unjust as it gets. 

mcdallas
mcdallas

@sophee I see a lot of smug and dumb comments on DO articles.  Congratulations, yours takes the prize.  I hope it was all worth it - sheesh!

Nose2Much
Nose2Much

@ibivi56 And can you believe that one man killed three people over his own wrong-doing?  Does it really make it all right to murder because Williams felt his crime wasn't that big of a deal?

retrogal
retrogal

Well, look ,everyone is entitled to their opinion especially since the public was so egregiously misled by the media initially.

ibivi56
ibivi56

@Nose2Much @ibivi56 The accused murderer was utterly destroyed by his prosecution and it appears to have unhinged him.  Was there no other way to resolve the issue of things being removed from the offices? 

mcdallas
mcdallas

@retrogal I'm not saying sophee can't have an opinion.  I would hope everyone has an opinion.  I was just pointing how how utterly smug and dumb the opinion is.  

Yours, not so much.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

You are correct. The way that was handled was way over the top vindictiveness. Small town politics. Give it a few months, someone will talk.

And think of it this way, if such shenanigans like 3 monitors missing had happened in Dallas county, what would have happened? Nada. In fact it took years to put together a case on crooked JPs here.

Lady Justice is not blind, she at least can read zip codes.

retrogal
retrogal

Yes I understand your impatience but I don't really have a firm opinion about this huge mess.Obviously some of the "facts" have been mere media speculation playing on the public's fears for heightened sensationalistic effect. (which is unfortunate).

mcdallas
mcdallas

@retrogal You don't honestly want answers to each of the 8 questions you just presented, do you?  Really?  Why?  When? Written? Succinct? Honest? All at once?


See what I did there?

retrogal
retrogal

The coverage of this matter has really been toxic with hyperbole.  At first we were given a  misleading fictional (delusional?) media account of lone small town prosecutors bravely taking a stand against right wing supremicist Aryan brotherhood mobsters and prison gang killers, ...or was it Mexican Drug Cartels?  This  unnecessarily over blown story line  was in part re- enforced by the  now deceased DA himself.  Who was seeking the limelight here?  Why? Egos? What? The deceased DA was a psychologist and was not aware of the deleterious effects of personal destruction?  Was he really elected to"protect the public from this sort of corruption"?  Such as a JP who had no prior adverse record and who was not a political supporter "taking" unused monitors from a county ware house to his own county office?  Oh yes, one was in his truck....This matter could have been resolved in another way, I agree,especially since there is the taint of political "pay-back" which runs through the real truthful version of events preceeding the murders.  Texas small town "justice" is an oxymoron.

 
Loading...