The Killings in Kaufman

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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.

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Brantley Hargrove