Lake Tawakoni search brings to light two guns and mask
Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–Investigators turned up a key piece of evidence in the capital murder case against former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Eric Williams, 47. For months, state police have searched Lake Tawakoni to recover weapons suspected of being used in the slaying of Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse, 57, and District Attorney Michael McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65.
According to warrant documents procured by WFAA News 8, state police divers recovered two guns and a black mask in the “two-mile bridge” area, along State Highway 276 in Hunt County.
Kaufman County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Woodall swore out an affidavit attesting to the forensic test results of one of the guns, found March 5. “Affiant has learned that recent forensic testing of this Ruger pistol has revealed that this pistol was the same pistol from which that bullets that killed Mark Hasse were fired,” states the affidavit. The search warrant identifies a Ruger .357 as capable of firing .38-caliber special rounds. Hasse was killed by .38-caliber rounds, as he walked from his car to his office in downtown Kaufman Jan. 31, 2013.
With the help of federal agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, purchase records of the second gun track back to Kim Williams, Eric Williams’ wife, as the gun’s buyer many years ago.
Last year, a search of a Seagoville storage unit turned up about a dozen weapons, ammunition and a Ford Crown Victoria sedan, believed to have been driven to the McLelland’s Forney home, where the couple was sprayed with bullets going into the Easter weekend. WFAA reports that investigators found the car title during a search of the Williams’ home, last year.
A friend of Eric’s had agreed to rent the storage unit on his behalf. Woodall’s warrant also attested to the finding of “two jars believed to be filled with homemade napalm” inside the unit “capable of, and believed intended for, evidence destruction.”
Prosecutors believe the couple began planning the murders after McLelland and Hasse successfully prosecuted Eric Williams in a theft and burglary case in 2012 that resulted in the loss of his public office and law license. A judge sentenced him to probation in the case, which outcome Williams appealed.
Attorneys for the defense were successful in having the trial moved to Rockwall, in hopes of finding unbiased jurors and have sought to delay the trial’s start, citing the massive amounts of evidence in the case.
The five-month jury selection process began last week with the summoning of some 3,000 potential jurors. Dallas County District Judge Mike Snipes is using a “big panel” approach to jury selection, which begins with a 28-page questionnaire for each one. Attorneys will begin whittling that list down beginning in May, with a panel picked by August. The trial is slated to begin Oct. 20.
Both defendants are being held in the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center. Bail was set at $10 million for Kim Williams and $13 million for Eric Williams.