Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

April 1, 2013

DA's killing puts other prosecutors on alert

Fernandez to be interim DA for 21 days

Athens — KAUFMAN, Texas — Deputies escorted some Kaufman County employees into the courthouse Monday, two days after the district attorney and his wife were found shot to death in their home in an attack that stirred fears that other public employees could be targeted by assassins.

Law enforcement officers were seen patrolling one side of the courthouse, one holding a semi-automatic weapon, while others walked around inside.

Authorities have said little about the investigation into the deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, whose bodies were found Saturday.

The couple's slayings came less than two weeks after Colorado's prison chief was shot to death at his front door, apparently by an ex-convict, and a couple of months after Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in a parking lot near his courthouse office. No arrests have been made in Hasse's Jan. 31 killing.

"I don't want to walk around in fear every day, but on the other hand, two months ago, we wouldn't be having this conversation," County Judge Bruce Wood, the county's top administrator, said Monday at a news conference.

Law enforcement agencies throughout Texas were on high alert, and steps were being taken to better protect other DAs and their staff.

Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt said “Henderson County added security to the courthouse and Judicial building after the first murder in January.

According to Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee, Law Enforcement in Henderson County is providing security to McKee and his family.

In Harris County, which includes Houston, District Attorney Mike Anderson said he accepted the sheriff's offer of 24-hour security for him and his family. Anderson said he also would take precautions at his office, the largest of its kind in Texas, with more than 270 prosecutors.

"I think district attorneys across Texas are still in a state of shock," Anderson said Sunday.

Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) released a statement regarding the shooting in Kaufman County, saying “The shooting of Mike and Cynthia McLelland is nothing short of a tragedy that has shocked our nation. I have known Mike as someone who embodies the role of a dedicated public servant at all times. This incident, and the shooting of Mark Hasse, are stark reminders that our law enforcement personnel put their safety and lives on the line every day. Melissa and I join citizens across Texas and our nation in offering our prayers of support and comfort to the McLelland family, friends and coworkers. I am confident that law enforcement at all levels will work to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for these brazen murders.”

Gov. Rick Perry is suggesting that everyone, especially public officials, should be extra-cautious after the weekend killings. Perry added he believes there is “a clear concern to individuals who are in public life, particularly those who deal with some very mean and vicious individuals.”

McLelland, 63, was the 13th prosecutor killed in the U.S. since the National Association of District Attorneys began keeping count in the 1960s.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes would not give details Sunday of how the killings unfolded, and said there was nothing to indicate for certain whether the DA's slaying was connected to Hasse's.

El Paso County, Colo.  sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Joe Roybal said investigators had so far found no evidence connecting the Texas killings to the Colorado case, but added: "We're examining all possibilities."

Colorado's corrections director, Tom Clements, was killed March 19 when he answered the doorbell at his home outside Colorado Springs. Evan Spencer Ebel, a white supremacist and former Colorado inmate suspected of shooting Clements, died in a shootout with Texas deputies two days later about 100 miles from Kaufman.

In an Associated Press interview shortly after the Colorado slaying, McLelland himself raised the possibility that Hasse was gunned down by a white-supremacist gang.

McLelland, elected in 2010, said his office had prosecuted several cases against such gangs, particularly one known as the Aryan Brotherhood. The groups have a strong presence around Kaufman County, a mostly rural area dotted with subdivisions, with a population of about 104,000.

After Hasse's slaying, McLelland said, he carried a gun everywhere around town, even when walking his dog. He figured assassins were more likely to try to attack him outside. He said he had warned all his employees to be constantly on the alert.

"The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it," he said of dealing with the danger, "because they're going to need it more in the future."

The number of attacks on prosecutors, judges and senior law enforcement officers in the U.S. has spiked in the past three years, according to Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County, Calif., district attorney's office who tracks such cases.

For about a month after Hasse's slaying, sheriff's deputies were parked in the district attorney's driveway, said Sam Rosander, a McLelland neighbor.

The FBI and the Texas Rangers joined the investigation into the McLellands' deaths.

Brandi Fernandez will lead the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office for the next 21 days. She had been the first assistant DA under District Attorney Mike McLelland.

State law requires that the DA's first assistant will conduct the affairs of the office until Gov. Rick Perry appoints a permanent successor.

McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, had two daughters and three sons. One son is a police officer in Dallas.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • DSC_0018.JPG Volunteers now needed for Athens Soup Kitchen

    Athens resident Terry Mayhall walked through the doors of the Athens Soup Kitchen asking if he could just volunteer. Mayhall now spends his Thursdays cooking soup for people who are hungry.
    Athens Soup Kitchen, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The mission is to feed those who are hungry. The facility that feeds 30 to 63 people weekly, opened its door in March 2014.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-26 Mike chamber.png Coston named chamber president

    After a diligent search, the Athens Chamber of Commerce Board has named Mike Coston president. 
    “The chamber board selected a search committee, which consisted of Chamber members, community leaders and business owners,” Ashley Adams McKee, Chairman of the Athens Chamber of Commerce Board, said. “Our committee knew that we wanted to take our time to find the most qualified person to serve as our new president. We had more than 10 applicants and in our first round of interviews we were all equally impressed and excited about Mike's experience and passion for chamber business.”

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Update on restaurant projects given

    City of Athens officials gave an update on some ongoing projects and financial information at a meeting on Wednesday.
    Director of Planning and Development Gary Crecilius said progress on the Cotton Patch Cafe has slowed considerably with the discovery of a possible environmental hazard. The restaurant is being constructed east of the Walmart store on East Tyler Street.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • IMG_3092.JPG HCPAC announces ‘Mattress’ sales

    Why would HCPAC be selling mattresses? Actually, the “mattresses” are tickets to “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opens Thursday, Aug. 7.
    The 26th Annual Youth Summer Musical stars 24 very talented area students, ages 10 through college, and tells the “fractured fairy tale” version of the “Princess and the Pea.”

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-26 CCL Rotary Celebrity waiter.jpg Gearing up for Celebrity Waiter event

    The Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake is gearing up for its annual Celebrity Waiter event. The Celebrity Waiter committee met on Thursday to discuss last minute items. The event is scheduled for Saturday, August 9 at Athens Country Club. This will be the 18th year the CCL Rotary Club has hosted the fundraiser. For ticket information call Erin Osborn at 903-887-7486.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • paul harris.jpg Paul Harris recognition

    Rotary of Cedar Creek Lake President Erin Osborn presents Rotarian Bill Burnett with his second Paul Harris recognition. Rotarians are given a Paul Harris recognition when a Rotarian donates $1,000 or more to the fund outright. Benefactors receive a certificate and insignia to wear with a Rotary or Paul Harris Fellow pin.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-25 Sanders_Kendall.jpg Sanders suspended indefinitely

    Two University of Texas football players were arrested and charged Thursday with felony sexual assault after a female student said she was raped in a campus dorm room last month.
    Wide receivers Kendall Sanders, of Athens, and Montrel Meander were arrested and later released on personal recognizance bonds. According to an arrest affidavit, Sanders and Meander texted each other during earlier interviews with police to "get their story straight" and Sanders also faces a charge of improper photography tied to the alleged assault on June 21.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-25 tree down college st. 1.JPG Thunderstorms take their toll on counties

    A line of thunderstorms rolled through Henderson County on Wednesday, snapping tree branches and power lines along the way.
    The winds that accompanied the storm resulted in thousands of people in North Texas without electricity and roads broken by falling trees or debris.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Council considering Burton's severance package

    The Athens City Council, by a 3-to-2 vote, tabled a budget adjustment on Wednesday to fund a severance package for City Administrator Pam Burton who’s stepping down at the end of the year.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Eustace ISD approves tax rates

    The Eustace Independent School District Board of Trustees held its regular monthly meeting Tuesday in the Eustace High School Library.
    Several reports and agenda items were considered by the board, and all were passed or approved. Board Secretary Ashley McKee was absent.
    The board was presented with the superintendent's reports on revenue, expenditures, payroll and taxes.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo