The Killings in Kaufman

There was a time before 8:38 a.m. on January 31 when the people of Kaufman County would commonly leave their doors unlocked or sleep with windows open on a temperate night. In Kaufman, the county seat, no one had been murdered in years. Folks came here to get away from that sort of thing, away from neighboring Dallas County and its crime. The area had grown, gated developments were rising out of the fields, but this was still a county built upon a sturdy foundation of Christ, cattle and cotton.

Then there is the time after 8:38 on a clear, chilly Thursday morning. If they didn't witness the thing with their own eyes, for all anyone knew it might have been a backfiring old pickup. But the crack split the air again and again, fast and sharp. Word soon spread through the courthouse and the sub-courthouse and all the little shops around the square that Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, the most accomplished prosecutor Kaufman had ever seen, was riddled with bullets and bleeding out on the cracked asphalt of the county parking lot.

A lawyer performed chest compressions until the paramedics arrived. She told investigators that a man in dark clothing, wearing a hood or mask, walked right up to the prosecutor. Hasse regularly carried a pistol because his business upended lives, and because he believed one man in particular was a threat to his. If he carried a gun that day, though, he didn't get to it in time. There was a brief altercation before the man shot Hasse at close enough range that the medical examiner found minuscule abrasions from unburned gunpowder around the entry wounds. The killer probably used a revolver, and a .38- or .357-caliber cartridge. No spent casings littered the ground.

The man stepped into what witnesses described as a gray or light-brown four-door sedan driven by a second person. They pulled away and in moments were gone. Hasse was taken to nearby Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he died.

By lunchtime, downtown Kaufman was crawling with federal agents in navy windbreakers and Texas Rangers in felt hats. The thwock of TV news helicopters reverberated through the square.

On the outskirts of town, at the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center, Hasse's boss, District Attorney Mike McLelland, bellied up to a bank of microphones. Where Hasse was thin and slight, a diminutive man whose presence before a jury only grew during his stem-winding closing arguments, McLelland was the kind of man his friends said you could hear coming across the room. On this day, he wore a black felt hat with a 6-inch brim. You couldn't see his eyes behind the glare on his glasses. The rest of his face was expressionless.

"We lost a really, really good man. He was an excellent friend and a spectacular prosecutor," he said, his voice deep, even, matter-of-fact. "I hope that the people that did this are watching. Because we're confident we're going to find you, pull you out of whatever hole you're in, bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the full extent of the law."

Some of McLelland's friends watched the newscast that night and wondered why — why provoke the kind of men who killed in the light of day, a stone's throw from the courthouse?

McLelland's son J.R. said that's just how his dad was. McLelland believed in protecting himself. He carried a pistol too, for the same reason Hasse did. But as long as he was on the right side of the law, he'd never cower, and he'd never varnish his words.

"We'll still make the walk. We'll show up for work and send bad guys out of Kaufman County every chance we get," McLelland said.

But days passed, then weeks, with no arrests. Investigators scoured every dash-mounted camera on every law enforcement vehicle in the county for a glimpse of the sedan that witnesses described. They read and reread the files on every case Hasse prosecuted. He'd had a successful career heading the organized crime unit at the Dallas DA's office in the '80s. The list of convicts he'd sent to prison was long and intimidating.

With little information coming from the investigation, the media's focus quickly centered on the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a violent prison gang with a presence in Kaufman County. The group had recently been the subject of a statewide sting in which a number of its officers were indicted for crimes ranging from the sale of methamphetamine to murder. Kaufman County had played a minor role in the joint investigation with the feds. There were other possible connections. More recently, a state prison chief was shot to death when he answered the door of his Monument, Colorado, home. The white supremacist who authorities say carried out the hit died in a shootout with police in Decatur, less than two hours northwest of Kaufman.

McLelland didn't believe any of it. He said he knew who killed Hasse, knew it in his bones. He just couldn't prove it yet.

The knowledge would not save him. On the Saturday before Easter, he and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down, the floor of their new Forney home strewn with spent shell casings. Cynthia lay near the front door. McLelland fell in a hallway leading to the back of the house. The home security system logged an event at 6:40 in the morning. That made sense, because McLelland was still in his pajamas.

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."

There'd been talk of setting up a video conferencing system so Williams and his fellow JPs could conduct hearings without driving from far-flung corners of the 800-square-mile county to the jail in Kaufman. But it was never more than talk.

That might or might not explain what Williams was doing inside the sub-courthouse on a Sunday in May 2011 when the building was empty. Surveillance cameras captured him wandering through its halls, looking out of the front windows, peering into various offices and rifling through them. Within minutes, he was carrying three Dell computer monitors out of the county IT department and into his truck.

"He probably thought, 'I'll get the parts for this magistration system myself.'" Parks said.

But not everyone saw it that way. York, the IT director, looked at the footage and saw theft. He turned the tapes over to the sheriff. Within a week Williams' friend Ernie Zepeda, a sheriff's investigator, showed up at his office with warrants.

"... He said, 'Well, let me see the warrants,'" Zepeda testified. "I said, 'Judge, you don't understand. These warrants are for your arrest.'"

Williams looked stunned. He asked Zepeda if he was joking.

"... I said, 'Judge, I wouldn't joke about this. These are actual warrants issued by Judge Chitty for me to search your office, your vehicle and also for your arrest for burglary of a building.'"

Williams insisted there was a simple explanation for all of it.

"Right now, we're gonna take you to the sheriff's office, and we can talk about that there," Zepeda replied.

One monitor was right there on Williams' desk, one was in the closet, and the last was in the back seat of his pickup. Williams was cuffed, taken to the jail, seated in a small, windowless room, interviewed and processed — a sequence he knew well, only this time, he was on the other side of it. His arrest was front-page news in Kaufman. The legal career, the elected position he'd held for less than five months, the good name he'd made for himself, the health insurance he needed for his wife — all was gone, everything, for what he said was a misunderstanding over three computer monitors. They were worth less than $500.

Mike McLelland believed he had a mandate. The people of Kaufman County voted for him because he vowed to return a sense of moral rectitude to the office of the district attorney. He took a long road to get here. He lost to a hotshot attorney from Dallas named Rick Harrison in 2006. McLelland campaigned hard. He must have driven across every square mile of the county, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car with wife Cynthia, knocking on doors, shaking hands. If you didn't get a call from him, odds were you got one from his mother.

But his opponent had the endorsements: the sheriff, the district clerk, the defense bar. The race was close, but Harrison won by the slimmest of margins. As McLelland drove through the county, retrieving his campaign signs, it was like he was picking up the broken pieces of a dream.

He was back in 2010, more determined than ever. "He worked the hardest of any candidate I've ever seen," said a friend, Randy Lockhead. The race got ugly. McLelland, Harrison said, was completely unqualified for the job. He hadn't tried a case in years. McLelland sent out mailers with Harrison's mugshot from his second drunken-driving arrest. How could a man uphold laws he violated? McLelland asked.

This time, Kaufman County heard his message, and McLelland won 58 percent of the vote. Mere months after taking office, he could not simply let Eric Williams off with a warning. "This is the sort of thing the people elected me for in the first place," he told the Terrell Tribune roughly two weeks after Williams was indicted. "They were tired of wrongdoing being done in county government and nothing being done about it."

Those weren't empty platitudes. McLelland lived by a code. He was a God-fearing man who attended First United Methodist in Terrell. The first Sunday of each month, he taught Bible study, where he usually shared a Diet Coke with Cynthia. They sang in the choir together, and the preacher recalled watching McLelland pluck the sermon from his Bible, appraise it and loudly announce, "Get ready, it's gonna be a long one today." Then he'd file out with the rest of the choir into the chapel, with its creaking wooden pews and the stained-glass windows that softened the midmorning sun. And while the preacher delivered his sermon, an oscillating fan beneath the piano would billow their bright blue robes. When the McLellands stopped singing in the choir, they usually sat with the rest of their Sunday school class on a pew in the back corner.

The laws of men and God were clear to him, and they shaped the way he viewed the world.

"The right thing is gonna be done," said his son J.R. McLelland. "There's right and wrong, and there's the law. No ifs, ands or buts about it, no bullshit."

His life had been marked by discipline and hard work. He was a rancher's kid and a retired Army major who ran an orderly household. "His life was extremely structured," J.R. said, right down to the way he arranged his closet.

Yet his professional life was characterized by incoherence. He was a clinical psychologist who counseled troubled juveniles. Later, in Dallas' mental health courts, he represented indigent patients facing involuntary commitment to psychiatric wards and hospitals. "He understood them and the problems they had, and he understood the law to the extent he could use it," said Dallas County Mental Illness Court Judge Michael Miller. "But it's hard to defend someone who's threatening to kill themselves."

He yearned to be part of the criminal justice system, and he saw his chance as the district attorney. "I remember him being so anxious to get in there," J.R. said.

"[Mike] wanted it for a long time," said Tonya Ratcliff, a friend and the county tax assessor. "He didn't talk about it as a power play. It was always, 'I want to be where I can do the most good.'"

And once he had it, he didn't clean out the office, didn't fire anyone. He wanted to articulate a vision and give his prosecutors the discretion they needed to carry it out. "Mike's philosophy was: Every victim deserves to have their case prosecuted. If it's a good charge, we'll prosecute it," said Bruce Bryant, McLelland's friend and chief investigator. "He didn't like crime, corruption, and didn't believe we should have to tolerate it."

He wouldn't try cases like his predecessor, and truth be told, McLelland wasn't experienced in criminal law. Most often, he walked around the office, chatting with his prosecutors, always carrying a Texas Longhorns insulated mug rattling with ice and Diet Coke. Hasse, who was hired by his opponent, became McLelland's right hand, his chief felony prosecutor.

Hasse cut his teeth in the Dallas DA's office, prosecuting every kind of felony case you could imagine. A Rowlett woman with a troubled marriage was the sole survivor of a house fire that consumed her husband, a house guest and her two daughters in 1985. Hasse convinced the jury that she doused her husband with gasoline and burned him. "We alleged the accelerant she used was a deadly weapon," said Marcus Busch, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney and former colleague. "And that was the first time that had been done."

Hasse could compose a closing argument in his head and deliver it to a rapt jury without notes, never stumbling. "I've only seen one other lawyer better in the courtroom in my 30-plus years as a Dallas police officer," said Bryant, McLelland's chief investigator. "He was a natural."

That he was in the courtroom at all, though, was a minor miracle. In 1995, Hasse participated in a Freedom Flight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. He was piloting a single-engine T-6 used to train Air Force pilots during the war. The engine failed, and Hasse made a forced landing in Virginia. On impact, his head struck the glare shield on the instrument panel. "He survived luckily because a neurosurgeon happened to be driving by the airfield and helped stabilize him before he was CareFlited," Busch recalled.

The broken bones healed. He was left with an indentation that creased his temple. The damage to his short-term memory lingered. Hasse had to relearn how to remember. He worked at it, Busch said, and soon was trying cases again in private practice. But the call of the DA's office beckoned, and Hasse couldn't tell Rick Harrison no when he asked him to lead his felony division in Kaufman. He still saw himself as a guardian who fought for the victims who couldn't stand up for themselves. He couldn't say no because he believed there was no greater calling.

In that respect, he and McLelland were an ideal pair. "[Hasse] was the most black and white guy you'd ever see," said Eric Smenner, a defense attorney who occasionally faced off against him in court. "He was going to follow the rules whether it helped him or hurt him."

That didn't mean he wasn't aggressive. "If Mike McLelland was a bulldog, Hasse was a pit bull," said County Judge Bruce Wood.

It was risky, then, for Eric Williams to spurn the deal Hasse and McLelland offered him: plead guilty to a Class A misdemeanor and resign as JP.

"The deal with Eric Williams got out of hand," said a Kaufman attorney who once employed Williams. "He had an opportunity to resolve the situation, but he was the one who chose to go to trial. The DA's office was bending over backward. He could have walked out with a deferred misdemeanor."

But Williams was as stubborn as McLelland and Hasse. He said he hadn't committed any crime, and insisted on a jury trial, where his peers, not a DA who he believed nursed a grudge, would decide his fate. If he wouldn't take their deal, which McLelland and Hasse thought more than generous, they would go after him as hard as the law allowed. McLelland sent letters to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and to the Judge Advocate General's office of the Texas State Guard at Camp Mabry, informing them of Williams' indictment.

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.

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."

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.

And so he and Cynthia went to bed that night at around 11:15. Thunder rattled the houses in Shamrock Ridge. The rain came down hard. He drifted off to sleep certain in the knowledge that a man he believed to be a murderer walked free through his county this night. McLelland had been a step ahead of the investigation. He'd felt it in his gut, though he knew that wasn't enough. But if Eric Williams is his killer, McLelland might have finally known he was right all along at dawn on March 30, when a man came through the front door.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brantley Hargrove