As investigators search for clues on who killed the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife over the weekend, lawyers from other jurisdictions are heading to North Texas to assist the small prosecutor’s office to manage its day-to-day business.
On Saturday, Kaufman DA Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot inside their house near Forney. The slaying comes two months after the death of Mark Hasse, a Kaufman County assistant district attorney who was fatally shot while he was walking from the employee parking lot on his way to work.
"We’re just heartbroken over it. That goes without saying," says Sarah Wolf, communications director for the Texas District & County Attorneys Association [TDCAA]. "It’s a small community and these people are dear to us."
Wolf says TDCAA executive director Rob Kepple, as well as Randy Reynolds, district attorney for the 143rd District in West Texas, are in Kaufman County helping the county’s 10 prosecutors attend to the office’s needs.
Meanwhile, other district attorneys’ offices in Texas are beefing up security in the wake of McLelland’s slaying, including Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson, who heads Texas’ largest DA’s office.
"The sheriff called him Saturday and they are working with our chief investigator about what additional security needs to be placed here at the Harris County Courthouse," says Sara Marie Kinney, public relations director for the Harris County DA’s Office.
The Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Rangers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all working together to find McLelland’s killers, says Katie Chaumont, a spokeswoman for Dallas’ FBI office.
Numerous other local, state and federal agencies are providing assistance, including the Kaufman County constables’ offices, the Forney Police Department, the Kaufman Police Department, the Terrell Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to a press release from the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office. While the Kaufman County Courthouse remains open, the DA’s office is closed, according to the release. A spokesman for the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached for comment.
While investigators are likely combing through Kaufman County case files in a search for suspects, it’s also likely that law enforcement is receiving help from criminal defense lawyers, says Gary Udashen, a partner in Dallas’ Sorrels Udashen & Anton.
Udashen notes that the attorney/client privilege would prevent a criminal defense lawyer from providing information to law enforcement if their client had direct involvement in a crime. "What I think is more likely to happen is that some client tells a defense lawyer that they heard something about what had happened. Then that would be something that a defense lawyer could find a way to share with the authorities," Udashen says. "If you have a client that is giving you information, they are giving it to you to share with the authorities, most likely.”"And I’m sure every lawyer in this area is listening for information that could help," Udashen says.
Udashen says the investigation into McLelland’s murder is quickly turning into the biggest of its kind for Texas law enforcement. The only other similar example, he says, was the 1979 murder of John H. Wood Jr., a Western District of Texas U.S. District Judge who was assassinated outside of his San Antonio home.
Anyone with information about the slayings is asked to call Kaufman County Crime Stoppers at 1-877-847-7522, or submit a tip online at www.kaufmancountycrimestoppers.org. Callers may remain anonymous.