Former Texas Official Arrested In Probe Of Prosecutors' Slayings

by
Reuters
A former justice of the peace in Kaufman County, Texas, whose home was searched as part of the probe into the killings of the local district attorney, his wife and a prosecutor, has been arrested on suspicion of threatening violence, officials said on Saturday.

A former justice of the peace in Kaufman County, Texas, whose home was searched as part of the probe into the killings of the local district attorney, his wife and a prosecutor, has been arrested on suspicion of threatening violence, officials said on Saturday.

Eric L. Williams, 46, was arrested on Friday on charges of making a "terroristic" threat, which generally involves a threat to commit violence, according to the Kaufman County jail website. Kaufman County is just east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

It was not immediately clear whether the alleged threat had any connection to the slayings, which along with the March slaying of the Colorado prisons chief raised concerns about public officials being targeted by criminal elements.

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death on March 30 at their home near Forney, 22 miles from Dallas, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down execution-style. McLelland had publicly vowed to capture Hasse's killer.

The arrest of Williams marked at least the third time investigators in the case have taken a person into custody over an alleged threat, and came as Texas authorities were seeking to double an existing $200,000 reward to find the killers.

Williams has not been named as a suspect in the slayings. He lost his position as justice of the peace in Kaufman County after being convicted last year of theft, according to local media reports.

His attorney, David Sergi, said in a statement on Friday that his client "has cooperated with law enforcement and vigorously denies any and all allegations," according to local news station KXAS-TV, an NBC affiliate.

Sergi did not return calls on Saturday.

SEARCH WARRANT

A jail official confirmed that Williams' bail was set at $3 million in connection with the charge against him, but she could not release further details.

Kyle Bradford, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers, said authorities served a search warrant at Williams' home on Friday.

Richard Mohundro, who lives next door to Williams' house in Kaufman County, said he watched from his porch as police poured into the neighborhood on Friday afternoon. "There were cops everywhere and I thought, 'Oh my God,'" he said.

Officers were there until around midnight and took out bins filled with documents and computers, Mohundro said.

After the slayings of Hasse and the McLellands, investigators had tested Williams for gun residue and they examined his cell phone, but they did not name him as a suspect, according to the New York Times.

The theft conviction against Williams last year centered on his removal of computer monitors from a public building, according to a report on the trial from The Forney Post newspaper. Hasse prosecuted the case, according to the paper.

Police investigating the slayings previously have arrested others on a charge of making a public threat.

The Texas Rangers arrested a man on April 4 accused of using Facebook to threaten violence against an assistant district attorney. Two days earlier, authorities arrested another man suspected of making a telephone threat against a county official on a tip line set up for the case.

Kaufman County Sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant Justin Lewis, whose department is the lead investigative agency on the case, did not return calls to Reuters.