The trial began Monday for a former justice of the peace accused of killing a North Texas district attorney, his wife and a top prosecutor in 2013.
Former JP Eric Williams is facing the death penalty for the slayings of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia McLelland and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse.
Williams is accused of pulling the trigger on all of them as retribution for his 2012 conviction by the prosecutors for burglary and theft that ended his legal career.
The trial in the Kaufman County murders is being held in Rockwall and each murder is being tried separately.
The first case to be heard involves the murder of McLelland's wife, Cynthia McLelland, and special prosecutor Bill Wirskye told the jury in an opening statement the evidence is staggering and the case is air tight.
“Once you hear this evidence, as damning and conclusive as it is, I believe you will be left with no doubt, no doubt at all, that this man killed Mike and Cynthia McLelland. And he killed them, he killed them, because Mike McLelland, as prosecutor, stood up in a court of law and asked a jury for justice,” Wirskye said.
Williams was convicted by the prosecutors in 2012 of burglary and theft, which ended his legal career.
Medical examiners testified that the McLellands were each shot numerous times.
The couple was still dressed in their bedclothes at the time of the shooting before dawn on the Saturday before Easter 2013.
The McLellands' son-in-law, Charles Tomlinson, a Dallas police officer, said he discovered the bodies around 4 p.m. that day.
He went to their home with his parents, who had tried unsuccessful to reach the victims all day by phone.
“I walked in, took about approximately two to three steps inside the residence, and my parents were behind me, and my mom immediately hit the ground,” Tomlinson said. “She just fell to her knees and started crying. And she pointed and said there’s shell casings under your feet.”
Maj. Rudy Flores with the Texas Rangers said 16 shell casings were recovered from the McLellands' Terrell home. Flores said he also found several firearms placed around the house as though the McLellands were prepared to defend themselves, but none of those guns were used.
Assistant DA Mark Hasse had been killed on the Kaufman square just two months before the McLellands were killed.
Witnesses told the jury about the Seagoville storage unit where investigators found weapons and a Ford Crown Victoria sedan. Evidence showed Williams purchased the car using the name Richard Green. Wirskye said surveillance video from the day of the McLellands' murders shows another Williams vehicle driving to the storage unit, the Ford leaving and returning and then Williams' other vehicle leaving again.
Defense lawyers raised few objections to the state testimony Monday and declined to cross-examine most of the witnesses.
Lead defense lawyer Matthew Seymour waived making an opening statement.
Veteran criminal defense attorney Barry Sorrels attended much of the Monday session as an observer.
He said the defense tactics indicate Williams does not have much defense and his lawyers intend to focus on the punishment phase of the trial, hoping to avoid an execution.
“It’s going to be rough for the defense,” Sorrels said. “I can tell that the defense is prepared. They have the toughest job in the courtroom.”
Williams' wife, Kim Williams, has filed for divorce since the murders. She is also charged in the case but is to be tried separately and is listed as a state witness. She is known to be cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to testify against Eric Williams.
The trial continues Tuesday at 9 a.m.
NBC 5 reporter Ken Kalthoff is tweeting during the trial. Keep up with the latest updates below.