Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kaufman County DA, wife murdered; link to execution of assistant 2 months ago feared by many

KAUFMAN, TX -- The greatest fear among employees in the Kaufman County Courthouse became a reality as word of  the murder of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife spread Saturday night, March 30.

Law enforcement officers found McLelland, pictured above, and his wife dead from gunshot wounds in their home near Forney. The couple's door originally was reported to have been kicked in, leading investigators to fear they had been executed in similar fashion to the shooting two months ago of an assistant district attorney who worked in McLelland's office.

Subsequent media reports indicated law enforcement officials found no sign of forced entry, but all reports indicate the door to the house was not locked. The couple appeared to have been dead for about 24 hours.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down in the employee parking lot of Kaufman County on Jan. 31 as he walked to his office early in the morning. McLelland had made numerous public statements about his determination to find Hasse's killers and prosecute them.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a violent white supremacist group became the main focus of a multi-agency investigation that drew a small army of law enforcement officials to the rural area. A command post was set up by the FBI, the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement agencies in Kaufman to investigate leads.

Evan Ebel, a member of a prison group who is suspected of murdering Tom Clements, the head of Colorado's Prison System, was killed in a shootout in Wise County with a sheriff's deputy about a week ago.  His appearance in Texas puzzled law enforcement agencies.

A press conference was held Sunday, March 31, by Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes, but it appeared to raise more questions than it did answers. Byrnes remained tight-lipped about any evidence found at the scene, what law enforcement officers think happened and whether a link between Hasse's and McLelland's murders is suspected.

The purpose of the press conference appeared to be the reassurance of the county's 40,000 residents that public officials and other county employees would be protected. The courthouse will open Monday morning, April 1 as usual, but the District Attorney's Office will be closed to the public, and there will be increased security visible.

A deputy sheriff reportedly protected McLelland at home for about a month after Hasse's murder, but that security had ceased at the time of the District Attorney's murder over the weekend.

A Dallas Morning News reporter told CNN News during an interview that her law enforcement sources told her shell casings found at the scene indicate an assualtr rife was used in the murders. Surveillance cameras at the McLelland home may reveal more information about the assailants, she said.

The reward for information leading to the indictment and conviction of Hasse's killers has risen to $130,000 since his killing, but no arrests have resulted. Hasse's crime scene differed from that of the McLelland's because the killers apparently picked up the shell casings.

In the wake of Hasse's murder and the massive investigation, Kaufman County officials resurrected plans to build a new criminal justice system that would provide better protection for employees.

On the day of the 57-year-old Hasse's death, the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Houston released a statement announcing the guilty please of two members of the white supremacist organization. Hasse was gunned down by two masked suspects who apparently easily escaped from the small town.

At the end of the statement the FBI credited a multi-agency task force for securing indictments in October 2012 against 34 ABT members that included the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office. In 2012 the Texas Department of Public Safety issued an alert that the ABT had vowed to retaliate against the 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that helped secure the indictments in Houston.

The Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, AL, which monitors the activities of hate groups, has branded the ABT as "particularly violent."

The other agencies named in the FBI statement were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI; U.S. Marshals Service; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety; Montgomery County, Texas Sheriff's Office, Houston Police Department Gang Division; Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General; Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Department; Tarrant County, Texas Sheriff's Department; Atascosa County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Orange County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Waller County, Texas Sheriff's Office; Fort Worth, Texas Police Department; Alvin, Texas Police Department; Carrolton, Texas Police Department; Montgomery County, Texas District Attorney's Office and Atascosa County, Texas District Attorney's Office.

The Aryan Brotherhood is a 50-year-old large, nationwide prison gang that is "infamous for its violence and its sprawling empire," according to the law center in Montgomery, AL. Members usually join the white supremacist group in prison, and they continue their involvement for life outside of prison walls as well. Leaders of the groups often direct activities from their prison cells.

The ABT is known to be involved in drug trafficking, and it cooperates with Mexican cartels, despite the intolerance the prison group's members harbor against ethnic groups.

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