KAUFMAN, Tex. — The district attorney of Kaufman County and his wife were found shot to death at their home on Saturday night in Forney, two months after one of his prosecutors was shot and killed while walking to the courthouse.
The fatal shootings of the district attorney, Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65, stunned law enforcement officials and residents, many of whom were still shaken by the killing of one of McLelland’s prosecutors, Mark E. Hasse, on Jan. 31 in a parking lot near the courthouse.
The authorities said it was too early to say whether the deaths of McLelland and his wife were connected to Hasse’s shooting. But the timing of the shootings — and the killings of two prosecutors in a county of 106,000 people in the span of eight weeks — appeared to many officials to be more than coincidence.
One of several angles that investigators have been exploring is whether Hasse’s killing involved members of the Aryan Brotherhood, the white supremacist gang that is active in prisons. Prosecutors in McLelland’s office had assisted in investigations of the gang
“I’m really trying to stress for people to remain calm,” said Mayor Darren Rozell of Forney. “This appeared to be a targeted attack and not a random attack.” Forney is about 15 miles northwest of Kaufman, the county seat.
Officials from several local, state, and federal agencies — including the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department — were working on the case.
The Kaufman County sheriff, David A. Byrnes, said Sunday that his officers had been called to McLelland’s house shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday and that the bodies of McLelland and his wife were then discovered inside. He would not say whether there were any signs of forced entry.
McLelland was a 23-year veteran of the Army who served in the first Iraq war, according to a biography on his office website.
Byrnes said Sunday that he had increased protection for local elected officials and would be tightening security at the courthouse.
“It’s unnerving to the law enforcement community, to the community at large,” he said. “That’s why we’re striving to assure the community that we are protecting public safety and will continue to do that.”
In the shooting of Hasse, 57, one or two gunmen had gotten out of a gray or silver sedan, opened fire and fled, police said. Witnesses told investigators that the suspect or suspects appeared to have had their faces covered and were wearing black clothing and tactical-style vests. No arrests have been made. Investigators from nine agencies have been searching for leads.
After Hasse’s killing, McLelland appeared alongside the county sheriff and the police chief from the city of Kaufman, vowing to find those responsible and referring to the suspect or suspects as “scum.”
Doug Lowe, the district attorney in nearby Anderson County and a friend of McLelland’s, said the latest shootings “were a blow to all Texas prosecutors.”
“We’re a tight-knit group,” Lowe said. “I don’t think anyone in my group will be in fear. We’re not going to let this stand in the way of getting the bad guys.”
Federal authorities announced in November that a grand jury in Houston had indicted more than 30 leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood and other members of the gang on racketeering charges. Federal officials said the defendants had agreed to commit killings, robberies, arsons, and kidnappings and to traffic narcotics on behalf of the gang.
The indictments stemmed from an investigation led by a multiagency task force that included prosecutors from Kaufman County and three other district attorney’s offices.
A month later, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statewide bulletin warning officials that the Aryan Brotherhood was planning to retaliate against officials who had helped secure the indictments.