Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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July 26, 2013

Death penalty sought

Former JP accused of killing DA and wife, assistant DA

Athens — KAUFMAN — Authorities will seek the death penalty against a former East Texas county official accused of killing three people, including two prosecutors.

Special prosecutor Bill Wirskye said Friday during a court hearing that the state will look to execute former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Eric Williams. He's charged with killing Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse in January as he walked into work and District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia at their home in March.

Wirskye said no determination has been made whether to seek the same penalty against Williams' wife, Kim Williams. Both are charged with three counts of capital murder.

She filed for divorce from her husband in June, on the same day a Kaufman County grand jury indicted the couple.

Jury selection in the trial of Eric Williams, 46, could begin in the spring, with a trial tentatively planned for October 2014.

Authorities believe the killings were to avenge the former justice of the peace's conviction on theft charges that cost him his office and law license. McLelland and Hasse prosecuted the case.

Williams was elected to his judicial post in 2010 after practicing law in the county east of Dallas for a decade. He previously served as a peace officer in five North Texas cities and two counties, including Kaufman, according to records previously obtained by The Associated Press from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. As recently as December 2010, he was a reserve officer in the Kaufman County Sheriff's Department.

During his theft trial, McLelland and Hasse portrayed Williams as a dishonest public official with a dangerous streak. The prosecutors presented evidence during closing arguments indicating Williams had made death threats against another local attorney and a former girlfriend.

Williams has appealed the conviction, and on March 29 — a day before the McLellands' bodies were found — a state appeals court in Dallas agreed to hear oral arguments.

Authorities allege Eric Williams was the gunman in all of the slayings and that Kim Williams, 47, was the getaway driver when her husband shot Hasse. They contend she was a passenger when her husband drove to the McLellands' home.

Investigators traced emails to a computer in the Williams' home in which the author confessed to all three slayings and threatened more violence against county officials, according to a warrant. They say evidence found at a storage unit traced to Eric Williams further implicates him.

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