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Kaufman County Tightens Security After Shootings Of 2nd Prosecutor And His Wife

Bill Zeeble

Security is high this morning for both elected officials and employees of Kaufman County. That’s because the County’s District Attorney and his wife were shot to death in their home over the weekend.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes was brief and offered few details about the death of D.A. Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia. He says his office got a call a little after 6 p.m. Saturday mentioning suspicious people in McLelland’s neighborhood near Forney, about 30 miles southeast of Dallas. When the Sheriffs got there, they found the D.A. and his wife shot dead. Just two months ago, one of McLelland’s Assistant D.A.’s, Mark Hasse, was gunned down on his way to work.

Sheriff Byrnes said “It’s pretty obvious it’s unnerving and it’s unnerving to the law enforcement community, it’s unnerving to the community at large. And that’s why we’re striving to assure the community that we are still providing public safety and we’ll be able to do that. There will be increased security at the court house tomorrow. Visible security.”

Byrnes was not ready to tie the Kaufman County deaths together. In fact, this is the third killing of a prominent law official this year. In addition to the two Texas prosecutors, the chief of the Colorado prison system, Tom Clements, was shot at his front door two weeks ago. A white supremacist suspect in the killing died in a subsequent gunfight with Texas police. Lifelong Kaufman resident Betty Bryant believes there may be a connection.

“I’m sure it’s organized, it has to be organized for them to disappear like they do. So they know what they’re doing and they know who they want. I think it’s the officials.”

So Bryant isn’t worried for her own safety. But Courtney Godwin is, to some degree. Like Bryant, she was at a private Easter gathering near Kaufman’s town square and the court house.

“I mean there’s always going to be, always going to kind of “live in fear.”  But it’s not fair that anyone has to live in fear in this community now.”

Godwin stood very near the site where, two months ago, Prosecutor Mark Hasse was shot to death.

“I’m not saying I’m actually worried about myself every day but I do know a lot of people that work in the court house. I’m concerned for them. You never know what can happen now. I mean, that was just shocking.”

That’s similar to what Mike McLelland said January 31st about his friend and prosecutor Hasse, killed that morning in cold blood.

“This is a crime, as our County Judge said, that’s against the very basis of our fabric.  As far as I know this has never been done before. I do not want it to happen again. Anything you people can do that accelerates our getting our hands on this scum will be appreciated.” 

  Now, McLelland’s family, officials and colleagues are preparing a funeral for the D.A. and his wife. Mike McLelland had been Kaufman County’s D.A. since 2010, when he defeated incumbent  Rick Harrison whom he had lost to four years earlier.  Cynthia McLelland was a nurse. The McLellands had five children. Sheriff Byrnes invited any tips that could help find the killers of the McLellands and Mark Hasse. He said numerous local, state, and federal officials are actively involved in this investigation. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.