The Killings in Kaufman

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

On February 23, a man who said his name was Richard Greene bought a white 2004 Crown Victoria. When shown a photo lineup, the seller would later identify the buyer as Eric Williams. Two days later, employees of Gibson Self Storage noticed a gray Sable on the property. They had it towed. Williams' storage unit was big enough to fit only one car.

The morning the McLellands were murdered, a surveillance camera captured footage of Williams' Ford Explorer Sport Trac entering the storage building. Then, a white Crown Victoria pulls away. It returns not long after 6:40 a.m. — the time logged on the McLelland's security system. Seventeen minutes later, Williams' truck is seen leaving the facility.

In the meantime, Williams maintained his innocence as rumors swirled around him. He granted brief TV news interviews in which he applauded investigators' thoroughness. When he was finished, the cameras observed him zipping down the street on the Segway, a placid expression on his face. His friend Jenny Parks said she spoke to him shortly after each of the murders. "He'd say, 'Yeah, Jenny, they've been to my house. We're just watching a movie,'" she recalled. "He was so calm. He said, 'Don't worry, they did forensics on my hands.' It was within 30 minutes of the Hasse killing."

Jail mugshot of Eric Williams.
Jail mugshot of Eric Williams.

But on April 11, investigators interviewed Williams and he consented to allow them to search his home. They saw parts consistent with the kind of weapon used in the McLelland slayings. They noticed none of them had "uppers." They found packaging for a Smith and Wesson .357-caliber pistol, one similar to the gun that killed Hasse. And they found evidence that Williams had made "threats by electronic communication against Kaufman County officials" after the McLellands were found on March 30. They observed his truck one night moving back and forth between his home and his in-laws'.

Two days later, the friend who rented the storage unit for Williams reached out to investigators. Sheriff David Byrne would later refer to that as the "watershed moment" in the investigation. They searched the unit and found 41 weapons. Two of the AR-15 rifles had no uppers. They discovered an "incendiary device," a crossbow and a white Crown Victoria that matched a vehicle observed entering and leaving the McLellands' neighborhood by surveillance cameras.

Williams was arrested on a terroristic threat charge. His wife, Kim, was arrested and charged with capital murder. During an April 16 interview, she allegedly told investigators she was there for both murders, and that her husband pulled the trigger. The next day, Williams was charged with the murders of Mark Hasse and Mike and Cynthia McLelland. The couple remain in a Kaufman County jail, he on a $23 million bond and she on a $10 million bond.


On Good Friday, nearly two months after Mike McLelland lost his friend, he had the day off. It had been sunny all week, but low clouds now moved over Kaufman County, darkening the emerald fields. That afternoon, he ducked into Helz Firearms, a low-slung shop in Forney, its walls lined with AR-15s, its display cases stocked with revolvers and semiautomatic pistols in black and chrome and gunmetal-blue. He said hello to the owner, O'Neill Kidwill, picked up a .45-70 rifle with a big lever action, turned it over in his hands, felt its weight. McLelland loved that "cowboy stuff," Kidwill said.

He put the gun back. He rarely bought anything here. His ample frame filled the doorway a couple of times a week, more for the companionship than the shopping. He loved to talk guns, and he knew just about everything there was to know about old Smith & Wesson revolvers, the kind lawmen before him carried when Texas was still a wild, unsettled place. McLelland carried a snub-nosed .38 since the Williams trial. Sometimes he'd ask Kidwill if he'd heard anything interesting. Never talked much about Hasse's murder. "The only thing he said was, 'I think we're getting close on it.'"

Later that day, he pulled his white Toyota Tundra into the Shamrock Ridge development and up his driveway. His lawn was neat and trimmed cleanly around the young trees. The garden hose was coiled in the yard. Cynthia's yellow flowers filled two aluminum pots on the front porch. They were expecting company for Easter Sunday. Cynthia loved to entertain more than anything, except maybe knitting.

If McLelland was right about Eric Williams, then he must have known Williams had every reason to come after him, and who knew when that day might arrive? But he couldn't disappear. As he said to reporters after Hasse's slaying, "An old TAC officer at Fort Sill told me a long time ago, 'Son, the details will get you killed.' And so I've shifted up my details some, but otherwise I can't do that much. There's no holes for me to hide in, and that's not my style anyway." There were still catfish fries for the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department. The First Assembly of God in Kaufman had expected him and Cynthia at the Valentine's Day banquet they held last month, and the couple did not fail to show. Come the Fourth of July, the church would throw a big party with bounce houses for the kids. Life in Kaufman County, after 8:38 a.m. on January 31, had to go on.

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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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