Texas DA, wife killed 2 months after deputy’s slaying

Posted at 3:11 PM, Mar 31, 2013
By Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton

(CNN) — A Texas community is on edge after a district attorney who said he would put away the “scum” who killed a colleague two months ago was shot to death alongside his wife in his home Saturday night.

Kaufman Mayor William Fortner told CNN that he thought the slayings of Mike and Cynthia McLelland were linked to the shooting death of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, who was slain on his way to work in January.

“It has to be targeted,” Fortner said. “That’s the logical conclusion, and I don’t have any information that directs me to think that’s the case, but that’s what you would assume under the circumstances, since they targeted two people from our prosecutors.”

The Kaufman County Sheriff’s office, however, won’t officially say the killings are connected.

Just two months ago, McLelland vowed to find the people who killed Hasse, one of his top deputies.

On Saturday, authorities found the McLellands’ bodies in their home in Kaufman County, east of Dallas.

“I don’t know of anyone who would want to cause him harm,” Fortner said. “As far as I could tell, he was doing a really good job as a district attorney.”

Fortner said he hoped the killer or killers were caught “before any more people are lost.”

Authorities are providing extra security for others.

“We are taking precautions to protect other elected officials in the county,” Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes told reporters Sunday. Byrnes said he couldn’t comment on what those measures were.

Byrnes had no comment when a reporter asked whether Saturday’s crime was connected to a white supremacist gang.

FBI spokesman Dave Joly said the Denver field office wasn’t involved in this case.

Last week, the suspect in the killing of Colorado’s prison chief was mortally wounded in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies in northern Texas. Evan Ebel was once a member of the white supremacist 211 Crew.

Joly told CNN the investigation into Ebel is a “local investigation” in Colorado and in Wise County, Texas.

Byrnes drew no connection between the cases and offered no details as to how the McLellands were killed.

A law enforcement official told The Dallas Morning News that a door was apparently kicked in, and “there are shell casings everywhere.”

Authorities have not identified a suspect.

The county sheriff’s office brought in the FBI and the Texas Rangers to help with the investigation.

McLelland was an Army veteran who later earned a master’s degree in psychology and became a psychologist for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the district attorney’s website said.

He was raised in the small town of Wortham, Texas, where his parents had a ranch. He joined the Army after attending the University of Texas and spent 23 years in the service.

He later earned his law degree and practiced as a defense attorney and mental health judge for 18 years before becoming the county’s district attorney in 2010.

McLelland and his wife leave behind two daughters and three sons. One son is a Dallas police officer.

Another top prosecutor slain

The McLellands were killed almost exactly two months after Hasse was shot to death in broad daylight outside the county courthouse on January 31.

Hasse had feared for his life and carried a gun to work, said a Dallas attorney who described herself as his longtime friend.

Colleen A. Dunbar said she spoke with Hasse on January 24. She said the prosecutor told her he had begun carrying a gun in and out of the county courthouse daily.

“He told me he would use a different exit every day because he was fearful for his life,” Dunbar told CNN.

She said that Hasse gave no specifics on why he felt threatened — only that he did.

McLelland called Hasse “a stellar prosecutor” who knew that threats were part of the job.

He vowed after Hasse’s slaying to put away the “scum” who killed his deputy.

“I hope that the people that did this are watching, because we’re very confident that we’re going to find you,” McLelland told reporters.

“We’re going to pull you out of whatever hole you’re in, we’re going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

Attorney Pete Schulte told CNN affiliate WFAA that public servants are facing a new quandary.

“It’s going to have a chilling effect on people who do want to step into those roles and (have to think about whether to) start arming themselves,” he said. “I mean, that’s the risk that we’re going to face now because of this happening.”

Schulte told the station that after someone shot through the windows of his Dallas offices in November, he began to carry a gun more often.

CNN’s Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.