The Killings in Kaufman

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

The DA normally didn't intervene directly in his prosecutors' cases, but he took an interest in this one. He said he wanted to see Williams behind bars. There was no graver offense, he would say, than violating the public trust. Williams' attorneys saw it differently. They would argue McLelland was pursuing a stale political vendetta. Each side clung to its convictions, its own aggrieved sense of justice. Neither would give ground now.


David Sergi, Eric Williams' attorney, tried to have McLelland kicked off the theft case before the trial even began. "The indictment of Mr. Williams was not the result of a crime having been committed as much as it was an attempt to settle a political grudge," he argued. On the witness stand, he asked McLelland about a letter Williams wrote during McLelland's failed 2006 run for the DA's office. It questioned McLelland's Republican bona fides and hinted obliquely at a troubled work history. "You must ask for a better explanation from Mr. McLelland as to why he no longer works for Child Protective Services," it read. The DA brushed it off.

"Well, I never attributed that to him," he responded in his characteristically blunt manner. "I attributed it to Rick Harrison, who simply found somebody dumb enough to sign it."

Judge Michael Chitty declined to disqualify McLelland. The trial began March 19, 2012. Hasse laid out the evidence in painstaking detail. He told the jury about a pending charge against Williams for allegedly buying $1,700 worth of personal office supplies with money from the county law library. Sergi, meanwhile, claimed portions of the security videotape were missing — portions that might show his client returning the computer monitors. He noted that none of the monitors or office supplies were ever found in his home or his law office.

"The DA will get up here next and paint an evil picture of Eric," Sergi said. "He's not evil. He was trying to save the county money, and he did it the wrong way. He bulldozed his way in. There is only one verdict you can come to: not guilty."

McLelland, for the first time since he took office, decided to make the closing argument himself. "...You have to be able to show everybody else out there that the people of Kaufman County will not tolerate this from their regular citizens or their leadership, elected or not elected," he said. "He took an oath to do just that. He spat on that oath. He took an oath to protect as an officer. He spat on that oath. I take umbrage with both of those."

The jury took less than four hours to find Williams guilty.

McLelland appealed to the judge to send Williams to prison for two years, the maximum sentence allowed. "He took all kinds of different oaths. He didn't honor any of them. He's a man bereft of honor. [The citizens of Kaufman County] see that too. The guy swears he's going to protect me. He steals me blind. They want something done about that. They just need something done to regain their trust because they don't trust the courthouse right now."

Judge Chitty gave him two years' probation instead. "Mark said McLelland was not happy with Judge Chitty," said Colleen Dunbar, a Dallas attorney and friend of Hasse's.

But Williams was convicted of a felony. He lost his seat as a justice of the peace. He lost his law license. He was no longer a member of the Texas Guard or a licensed peace officer. Said Williams in a presentencing report: "My life has taken a drastic turn."


Eric Williams retreated from public life following his conviction. His lawyer friends say they didn't see much of him anymore. Neighbor Richard Mohundro said Williams let his lawn guy go and started cutting his own grass, trimming his own shrubs and pruning his trees. "He absolutely butchered his trees, pruned 'em way up high," he said. Moundro still saw him cruise through the neighborhood on his Segway, but he seldom saw Kim.

According to investigators, though, neither was idle. Williams asked a friend from the Texas State Guard to rent a unit for him at Gibson Self Storage in Seagoville on December 28. Williams told him it was for his in-laws. With all his legal troubles, he explained, they might search the unit if his name was on it. He fronted the cash for a one-year lease. On January 4, he had lunch with another friend and asked him if he knew how to get rid of an "upper," the receiver of an AR-15 rifle that could be used for ballistics comparison. Two days later, records indicate he spent an hour on the LexisNexis digital database, searching for information on McLelland and Hasse. The search would have provided home addresses and vehicles associated with them. On January 23, he searched again for the license plate belonging to Hasse's neighbor. Four days later, he performed another search with the license plate number belonging to a gray Mercury Sable sedan. And on January 30, the night before Hasse was shot to death near the courthouse, storage company logs showed Williams' unit was accessed. The next morning, it was accessed again.

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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.

 
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