KAUFMAN COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – After the weekend murder of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife law enforcement presence at the Kaufman County Courthouse and other North Texas offices has been beefed up.
The McLellands were found late Saturday afternoon in their home, near Forney, in an unincorporated part of Kaufman County. The couple had been shot to death. "We obviously have some folks that are out to do harm to elected officials," Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood said during a morning news conference.
Judge Wood spoke about the horrors of the past few days and obvious concerns about yet another North Texas civil servant murder. "All of you are aware of the fact that Mark Hasse our assistant District Attorney was ambushed and murdered less than 100 feet across this way behind us in the parking lot on January 31st," he said. "Then of course this weekend we had the tragic deaths of Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia."
The McLelland murders happened almost two months to the day after Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot and killed as he walked from a parking lot to the courthouse. No one has been arrested in that case.
Of the separate incidents Judge Wood said, "I'm not a professional law enforcement person, but it would seem to me that this is not just a random act. It would seem to me that there has to be some connection," he said.
Judge went on to stress that, "I do know, based on what I've been told, that they have found no physical evidence that links the murders of Mr. and Mrs. McLelland with the murder of Mark Hasse. "That may not mean anything, but it's my understanding they've found no evidence that links the two. But this has to be more than a coincidence I would think."
Regardless of the past days events, The Kaufman County Courthouse is open for business today. "It's not just a typical day at work. I would be less than honest if I tried to indicate that was the case," Judge Wood said. "The district attorney's office is closed to the public today, but there is staff there and we will be meeting with them later on this morning."
The short-term goal for county officials is to determine how offices will operate. "One of the priority concerns we have, that we'll be dealing with, is contacting the governor's office. Under state law Governor Perry will appoint a DA to serve out the term of DA McLelland," Judge Wood explained. "We feel like it is very important that we have a new DA in place as soon as possible. We will be asking the governor to do what he can to expedite that."
Wood said there are concerns not only for employees that will be at county offices, but also for the public citizens conducting business at those locations. "I have great confidence that we're being protected in our courthouse today."
As for the McLelland murders Judge Wood said he would not and could not comment on details of the investigation. But as a community he said, "We're still in shock, I guess is the best way to describe our feelings about this latest incident. I've searched all weekend to think of the right word to describe [it] and I can't come up with a single word."
Wood said he was at home Saturday night when Sheriff David Byrnes called and told him about the deaths. Although he said he did not want to interfere with the investigation, the judge said he got dressed and went to the crime scene.
Thinking of their interactions professionally and personally, Judge Wood recalled, "I'd had conversations with Mr. McLelland last week and as you know he was a very outgoing person, a person that pretty well when he spoke he told you what was on his heart, what was on his mind. But he also was a very intelligent person, had great whit, remarkable sense of humor, but he took his job very seriously."
Now the murder of three people, two of them elected officials, has left an entire community worried and wondering. "I would be less than honest if I told you that I was not worried. I don't walk around in fear everyday, of course I have this gentleman that's with me today. But on the other hand two months ago we wouldn't even be having this conversation," Wood said.
The CBS 11 News I-Team confirmed on Sunday that DA McLelland, 63, recently had the sheriff's deputy guarding his home, after the Hasse murder, removed. McLelland reportedly thought he didn't need the protection and didn't want to waste taxpayer dollars.
Now in addition to working the murder of Mark Hasse, officials with the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office, Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, and ATF are investigating the McLelland murders.
When asked if he had anything to say to the person or persons responsible for these latest deaths Judge Wood said, "I hope they stop. I hope they take… they're dealing with real people, real lives." Many of those "real people" are back on the job today. "They're professionals, but we also recognize and remember that office has been through some pretty bad events over the last 60 days or so," the judge said. "They're professionals, but they're humans as well.
Mike McLelland was elected as Kaufman County District Attorney back in 2010. Cynthia McLelland, 65, was a psychiatric nurse at the Terrell State Hospital.