Jury Sentences Eric Williams To Death For Kaufman County Murder
Eric Williams, a former North Texas justice of the peace, has been sentenced to death for capital murder in what prosecutors described as a revenge plot that left three people dead.
Williams was convicted Dec. 4 in the March 2013 murder of Cynthia McLelland, who was slain along with her husband, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, in their home east of Dallas.
Williams has been charged, but not tried, in the deaths of Mike McLelland and prosecutor Mark Hasse.
Williams. 47, lost his job as justice of the peace, along with his law license, after McLelland and Hasse prosecuted him for theft and burglary.
Prosecutors say that conviction pushed Williams over the edge. During his trial, they presented evidence that he paid a friend to rent a storage unit where he kept more than 30 guns, police tactical gear and a getaway car.
Authorities say a masked Williams gunned down Hasse in January 2013 outside a courthouse building in broad daylight.
Prosecutors say a "masked assassin" whom they identified as Williams approached Hasse as he walked to work and the two shoved each other. They said Hasse pleaded and yelled "I'm sorry" before he was repeatedly shot.
Two months later, Williams stormed into the McLellands' rural home and shot both the district attorney and his wife more than a dozen times each, according to evidence at his trial.
Williams' wife, Kim, is accused of helping him carry out the slayings and testified before closing arguments Tuesday that she drove the getaway car in Hasse's death and helped her husband dispose of weapons used in the shooting of the McClellands.
She said Eric Williams had a hit list that included former state District Judge Glen Ashworth and Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Norville Wiley.
Prosecutor Bill Wirskye called Williams a "ruthless killing machine."
Here's more from KERA's Bill Zeeble:
Prosecutors called this crime calculated and cold-blooded, and the jury’s sentence is the harshest the law permits. Jurors spent about three hours, between the end of Tuesday and Wednesday morning, before deciding on execution.
Former Dallas assistant district attorney Barry Sorrels watched the case in the court room and online. He was not surprised by the sentence.
“Eric Williams is a true serial killer sadistic psychopath,” Sorrels said. “He is one of the most dangerous sadistic killers that I’ve seen in the time that I’ve been practicing law.”
Sorrels didn’t base his assessment on just the deaths in this case. There were other incidents mentioned in the trial, like a threat against a woman Williams used to date. He later saw her at a conference.
“He told her he had a gun, showed it to her. He invited her to go to dinner and she refused. He said: 'Well, if you walk away I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m going to kill you,'” Sorrells said.
Judge Mike Snipes said from the bench that Williams would’ve killed two other victims if he had the chance. Snipes compared Williams to some of this country’s most infamous serial killers.
“That puts you right there with Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Speck," Judge Snipes said.
The outcome of this case puts an exclamation mark on incoming Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk’s decision to make Bill Wirskye her first assistant. Wirskye was a prosecutor in the Williams trial.
“The fact that he was appointed to be special prosecutor on that case does not surprise me because of his skill,” Hawk said. “He understands his job is to seek justice. He would not have participated in seeking the death penalty against the individual unless he believed that individual was worthy of that type of sentence.”
Sorrels says Williams’ execution by lethal injection will be years away, because of automatic appeals in death penalty cases. Williams’ estranged wife Kim, who testified against her husband, also stands accused of these murders. That case hasn’t been scheduled. It’s also unclear if Eric Williams will be tried in the murders of Kaufman district attorney Mike McLelland or prosecutor Mark Hasse.