Touching Eulogies (and a Bomb Threat) as Kaufman County Mourned its DA and His Wife
Inside First Baptist of Sunnyvale, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland lay in a flag-draped coffin alongside the ashes of his wife, Cynthia. That was fitting in a sad way, their friends said, because they knew one wouldn't want to go on without the other.
Hundreds of friends, colleagues and coworkers filled the pews and mourned the deaths of the two together on Thursday, because after all they were inseparable in life. Dallas County Sheriff's Office vehicles, lights flashing, were parked up and down Beltline Road for hundreds of yards. Helicopters hovered overhead. It looked as though every cop within a two-county radius had converged on this church. And, apparently, not just to provide security for the mourners.
Gov. Rick Perry himself addressed them from the dais. He spoke to a community that seemed besieged, having only two months before witnessed McLelland's Assistant DA Mark Hasse's murder in the Kaufman square.
"There just aren't any words that can explain what this community has gone through," Perry said. "We owe it to Mike and Cynthia to continue the work they begun."
And that's just what their friends and family vowed to do as they took turns eulogizing the couple.
"I don't know what the murderer hoped to accomplish in taking these two great souls," McLelland's chief investigator Bruce Bryant said as his voice shook some five days since the McLellands were found shot to death in their Forney home. "We will not stop pursuing justice. We will not give up the good fight. ...We will pause only to celebrate the lives we lost, but we will not stop."
The ceremony was cut through with moments of levity, as friends recalled the grandmotherly woman who loved to hug, quilt and sing with her husband in the church choir. "When God walks through his garden, he always picks the prettiest flower," said friend Tonya Ratcliff. "And that was our Cynthia."
But it was Cynthia's daughter, Christina Foreman, a pretty, petite woman with long blonde hair, who galvanized the crowd the way her stepfather did when he looked into the cameras the day his assistant district attorney was murdered. She didn't speak only to the mourners, but to those who may know who is behind the killings but are too afraid to come forward. "If good people sit back and do nothing, society fails," she said. "Anybody who backs down is coward. If you take anything away from this, it's that we all need to stand up."
At the memorial's close, hundreds of law enforcement officers filed past to salute the casket, and finally carried it out into the cold, gray afternoon. With a seven-gun salute and a helicopter flyover, they honor guard carefully folded an American flag with white-gloved hands and presented it to Gov. Perry, who got down on his knees and gave it to Cynthia's mother, Shirley Woodward.
The woman -- mostly wheelchair-bound, with cotton-white hair -- clutched the flag to her chest. The mourners dispersed, and the family, with police escorting them, traveled some 85 miles to tiny Wortham, Texas, northwest of Waco. They gathered in a brick Baptist church, where extended family and old high school buddies waited for an hour or more, looking at the McLellands portrait, and at the quilt Cynthia knitted. They chatted in the old wooden pews.
The family wasn't there. They had been hustled out of the church shortly after they arrived. A bomb threat was apparently called in. The threat was an empty one, according to a Dallas County deputy tasked with guarding the casket. Even in death, there were some who could not let the McLellands be.