Longform

The Killings in Kaufman

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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.

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Brantley Hargrove