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Woman confesses to involvement in killing Texas prosecutors

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A photograph is displayed at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas
A photograph is displayed at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas

By Lisa Maria Garza

KAUFMAN, Texas (Reuters) - The wife of a former Texas justice of the peace confessed to her involvement in shooting deaths of the local district attorney, his wife and a prosecutor who had helped to convict her husband for stealing computer monitors, the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office said on Wednesday.

Kim Williams, 46, told investigators she was involved in the killings earlier this year of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife, Cynthia, and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse. She has been charged with capital murder and is being held in the Kaufman County Jail on a $10 million bond on Wednesday.

Her husband, Eric, who was charged over the weekend on suspicion of threatening violence, denied involvement in the attacks to several media outlets last week. He has not been charged in the killings.

The development resolves the suspense that has surrounded a disturbing series of murders that had rocked the rural area outside of Dallas and stirred fears about the safety of law enforcement officials.

After the McLellands' murders, suspicion fell on the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a white supremacist prison gang that had threatened retaliation against prosecutors, including Kaufman County prosecutors, who were involved in a multi-agency task force that announced a sweeping federal indictment of dozens of gang members last fall.

"Kim Williams confessed to her involvement ... in the shooting deaths," said a warrant for her arrest released by the sheriff's office.

The two prosecutors helped to convict her husband, Eric Williams, who lost his position as justice of the peace in Kaufman County after he was found guilty of stealing computer monitors from a public building, according to law enforcement authorities there.

County employees and law enforcement officials told investigators that Hasse and McLelland believed Williams blamed them for his removal from office and that both carried handguns because they thought he was a threat to their safety, the warrant said.

Local criminal defense attorney Eric Smenner, who knew both prosecutors, said he told the FBI after Hasse's death that Williams would be a prime suspect "because he'd been threatening people." Smenner is a former Dallas County prosecutor and Irving police officer.

Jenny Parks, a bankruptcy attorney from Crandall, Texas, and a friend of the couple who worked with Eric Williams for 20 years, was shocked by the news. "I cannot believe that either one of these people would be capable of murder."

The home of Eric Williams had been searched as part of the probe into the slayings. He was arrested last week on suspicion of threatening violence. Electronic threats made to officials investigating the McLellands' deaths were traced to his home computer.

McLelland and his wife were found shot to death on March 30 at their home near Forney, 22 miles from Dallas. They were killed two months after Hasse was gunned down in the same county on January 31. McLelland had publicly vowed to capture Hasse's killer.

"I don't think anyone in this community wanted to believe someone here was behind it," said Cathy Spurlock, who owns a quilt shop across from the county courthouse. "It's bittersweet, but I'm just so grateful that the families can have some closure."

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza, Chris Francescani, Corrie MacLaggan and Marice Richter; Editing by Greg McCune, Bernard Orr and Prudence Crowther)

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