Texas readies for memorial for slain prosecutor, wife

Los Angeles Times

KAUFMAN, Texas — Courthouse staff reported to work flanked by sheriff’s deputies days after the local district attorney and his wife were gunned down at home, just two months after another local prosecutor was shot on his way to work.

“We’re doing the best we can,” County Judge David Lewis said as he climbed out of his car and was escorted into the building by deputies.

“All of the law enforcement people have my confidence,” Lewis said as he entered the courthouse about 20 miles east of Dallas.

Lewis said he planned to attend a Thursday memorial at First Baptist Church in nearby Sunnyvale for District Attorney Mike McLelland, 63, who was found fatally shot over the weekend with his wife Cynthia, 65, at their home in nearby Forney.

The courthouse and other county facilities will close at 11 a.m. on Thursday “in honor and respect of the lives” of the McLellands, county officials said in a Tuesday statement.

The shootings came after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, 57, was fatally shot on his way to the courthouse on Jan. 31.

During a Tuesday morning briefing outside the courthouse, County Judge Bruce Wood said investigators were still searching for suspects in the killings.

“We’re working feverishly, national, state and local offices, they’re doing all they can to investigate this crime,” Wood said.

New interim Kaufman County District Attorney Brandi Fernandez, 42, did not appear at the briefing, and Wood would not say whether she had reported to the courthouse Tuesday.

He described her as “very capable” and a “bright person” who is “seasoned.”

“I have full faith in her abilities,” Wood said.

Fernandez succeeded McLelland by law as his highest-ranking deputy, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry has 21 days to name a permanent replacement.

Hasse was shot the same day that federal officials credited him for assisting with the prosecution of members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang. Fernandez has also handled an Aryan Brotherhood case, but Wood declined to comment about whether that led to fears for her safety.

Wood said he had no new details to release about the investigation Tuesday. Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes and spokesman Lt. Justin Lewis appeared in front of the courthouse and Lewis announced that no press briefings were planned for the day; rather, a statement would be released in the afternoon.

A funeral is planned for Mike McLelland in his hometown of Wortham on Friday, and Kaufman County officials are also planning to hold an honor guard in his memory as they did for Hasse, Wood said.

Some of those who knew McLelland, who had been district attorney for three years, came to the courthouse in disbelief Tuesday.

“He was just hitting his stride, doing tough cases, and to get snuffed out like that when he was just starting to go . it’s a great loss,” said Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe, who knew both McLelland and Hasse.

Lowe has also handled Aryan Brotherhood cases and said both the prison gang and Mexican cartels “are capable of pulling something like that off, but I’m skeptical.”

His county is home to three maximum-security prisons where the Aryan Brotherhood has thrived, but its reach has not generally extended beyond prison walls, Lowe said.

“In recent years they’ve expanded their activities outside the units. But I don’t think they’ve become that organized. If it was them, I’d think someone would have snitched,” he said.

Lowe said he never felt threatened by any of the Aryan Brotherhood defendants he prosecuted, although in one recent case a man strapped a hand grenade to the gas main in Lowe’s building, then waited outside with an assault weapon while an associate called in a bomb threat.

“He was outside with a scope but he chickened out,” Lowe said. No one was injured.

Lowe has a small office with a staff of about 14. While district attorneys in Dallas and Houston have adopted security details for themselves and their families in the wake of the Kaufman County attacks, Lowe said he’s making do.

“I talked to the sheriff about getting another bailiff,” at the local courthouse, he said, and “I have two dogs that bark real loud.”

—-

&Copy;2013 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Marilyn Carter (left) is president and Barbara Callaghan is vice president of the AOK Club at Washington Oakes Retirement Community in Everett. Carter personally funds much of the supplies for the club’s annual candy wreath fundraiser so that all sales proceeds can go to local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Daily Herald)
Circles of kindness

Residents of an Everett retirement community create candy wreaths as fundraisers.

County to contribute $1.6M to Everett’s low-barrier housing

The plan appears on track for the council to transfer the land ahead of next month’s groundbreaking.

Most Read