Kaufman County’s district attorney and his wife were found slain Saturday, raising fears that their deaths may be part of a plot that included the killing of one of the county’s assistant district attorneys in January.
Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh and other officials confirmed that Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia Woodward McLelland, had been shot at their home near Forney.
Their deaths followed the Jan. 31 slaying of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse.
“It is a shock,” Aulbaugh said late Saturday. “It was a shock with Mark Hasse, and now you can just imagine the double shock. … Until we know what happened, I really can’t confirm that it’s related, but you always have to assume until it’s proven otherwise.”
Sources said early Sunday that surveillance cameras at the home offered authorities hope that video footage might help reveal who killed the McLellands.
Aulbaugh said that the Texas Rangers were helping with the investigation at the McLellands’ home in an unincorporated part of the county but that the sheriff’s department will be leading the investigation.
“Because we have to treat it as related [to the Hasse investigation], we’ll be working side by side again,” Aulbaugh said.
A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity described the scene at the McLellands’ home as an awful scene.
“There are shell casings everywhere,” the official said. “This is unprecedented. This is unbelievable. This is huge.”
There had been an early report that whoever had killed the McLellands had kicked in the door of the home, but later accounts indicated that was not the case.
A friend of the family reportedly entered the home to check on the couple after a family member was unable to contact them.
The discovery of the McLellands’ bodies spurred a massive response from law enforcement, including the FBI. While dozens of marked and unmarked vehicles patrolled the area, officers went door to door to interview neighbors.
Authorities worked quickly Saturday night to confirm that other employees in the Kaufman County district attorney’s office were safe, and they believed that everyone was accounted for. Security was being provided at the homes of others who authorities feared might be targets.
Eric Smenner, a Kaufman defense attorney, said the immediate police protection for the staff of the district attorney’s office was essential.
“They need to shut the office down for a while,” he said. “I think everybody there is a target. They’re not safe in the streets in downtown Kaufman. They’re not safe in their homes.”
He said the recent events reminded him of violence often seen in Mexico.
“It looks like somebody is making a pretty concentrated effort to target the most important people in that office,” he said.
Forney Mayor Darren Rozell said the attack on the McLellans "appears to be a targeted act," and he urged residents in the area to remain calm.
Some of the McLellands’ neighbors said they believed the couple may have been killed late Friday. Some thought they had heard loud noises then but had assumed what they heard was thunder from storms passing through the area.
The discovery of the bodies came as investigators were pursuing a variety of angles in the death of Hasse, 57.
He was shot to death as he walked from his car to the courthouse Jan. 31. Witnesses saw a dark brown or silver sedan, perhaps a Ford Taurus, fleeing the scene, and authorities soon issued a bulletin for two black-clad men who may have been wearing tactical vests.
After Colorado’s prisons chief was killed at his home March 19, the FBI began looking into whether that case could have any connections to Hasse’s death.
The suspect in the Colorado case, Evan Spencer Ebel, was a member of the white supremacist 211 prison gang, and federal authorities had been looking into whether the violent Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang was involved in Hasse’s death.
However, after police killed Ebel, 28, while he was trying to escape authorities March 21 in Decatur, officials said they had not found any connections between him and the Hasse