Kaufman County Murders: Eric Williams, a Segway-Riding Justice of the Peace, is the Top Suspect
After Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were gunned down in their home last month, just two months after McLelland's deputy, assistant DA Mark Hasse, was murdered in broad daylight, law enforcement officials pledged to search far and wide to bring the killer, or killers, to justice.
Turns out, he may have been hiding in their own backyard.
The focus of the case has now turned to Eric Lyle Williams, a former Kaufman County Justice of the Peace who was arrested Saturday morning on a charge of making a terroristic threat. That's a relatively minor charge, a misdemeanor in most cases and the same one that's already gotten two non-murderers thrown in jail. But his bond's been set at an astronomically high $3 million, and the Morning News, which has done an excellent job covering the case, reports that Williams will be charged with the murders this week.
To answer your questions about Williams and his possible involvement in the Kaufman County killings, we've put together this Q&A.
So who the hell is this alleged cold-blooded killer?
Williams is 46 years old, TCU grad who went on to get a law degree and settle down in Kaufman County, where he served for a time as a justice of the peace. He lives in Kaufman, where he cares for his ailing wife and father-in-law, who lives down the street. When he worked at the courthouse, he commuted to work on a Segway. Friends and coworkers describe him as jovial, caring, an all-around good guy.
What makes police so suspicious of Williams?
Authorities began to suspect Williams after an anonymous threat was emailed to county officials in the wake of the McLelland murders, promising similar violence if the writer's demands were not met. According to the News, authorities traced the missive back to Williams' personal computer.
And Williams has motive. He was booted from his Justice of the Peace post -- and lost the associated county health benefits he relied on to care for his wife -- after being convicted of boosting three computer monitors from the county's IT department.
Williams insisted that he was using them for work (two of them were recovered from his office) and that the prosecution was political, since he had supported McLelland's opponent in the DA's race several years before, and the bad blood had lingered.
Indeed, McLelland and Hasse seemed to have savored the opportunity to go after Williams, calling him a "liar," "crooked official" and "thief," and lobbying for prison time.
Is he capable of such a thing?
Who knows. But he's a former cop and member of the Texas State Guard who has considerable weapons training, not to mention a storage shed full of guns. So he would have had the training and the equipment to carry out the attacks.
He has also been known to threaten violence in the past. The Morning News reported over the weekend on two cases, the first of which involved an ex-girlfriend who says he flashed a gun after she refused to get back together with him. In the second, a defense attorney testified in court that he had overheard Williams threatening to burn a man's house down and murder his family, though the attorney doesn't seem to have taken the threat seriously, considering he also testified that he didn't feel Williams posed a threat to the community.
But everyone seemed so certain that the murders were the handiwork of an unholy alliance of violent white supremacists, Mexican narco-terrorists and Kim Jong Un.
They did, but that was mostly a product of the media, which, faced with a shortage of facts, spun tiny scraps of information into potential storylines.
Members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas were reportedly interviewed during the investigation, but the speculation was kicked off when an unfortunately timed press release from the U.S. Department of Justice listed the Kaufman County DA's office as one of the agencies that had helped in a massive takedown of the gang. The death in Texas of Evan Ebel, a member of a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado, further fanned the flames.
But this connection was always a tenuous one, since, as we reported two weeks ago, the ABT is too busy mainlining meth and murdering each other to coordinate sophisticated attacks on public officials.
The involvement of Mexican drug cartels was raised most prominently by Governor Rick Perry, who suggested that the country's porous border might be to blame for the murders. And North Korea is still far too occupied deciding how best to wipe Austin off the face of the earth to coordinate attacks in rural North Texas.