The man accused of murdering two North Texas prosecutors in retribution for his burglary conviction emailed the sheriff's department to demand judges step down in order for the killings to end, investigators said in court Tuesday, as the trial entered its second day.
Eric Williams, a former justice of the peace, is accused of killing Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia McLelland and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse last year. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors say Williams shot them as retribution for the 2012 burglary and theft conviction that torpedoed his legal career. He is being tried in Rockwall, and each murder is being tried separately.
Investigators' details on the emails sent to the sheriff's department Tuesday marked the first time they had revealed the secret communication that was underway last year — allegedly involving Williams — before any arrests in the case.
Emails sent to the sheriff's office's Crime Stoppers program through a confidential internet link demanded the resignation of county judges in exchange for an end to the killing, investigators said. The FBI eventually traced the chain of emails to Williams, they said.
Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Beavers read several of the emails in court Tuesday. “'Do not report any details of this arrangement. You have until Friday at 4 p.m. We are not unreasonable, but we will not be stopped,'” Beavers read.
The jury also saw photos of what the prosecutor described as the “treasure trove” of evidence discovered in Williams’ Seagoville storage unit.
Investigators first searched the storage unit in April 2013 after the March 2013 murders of the McLelland couple in their Forney home. Hasse was murdered outside the Kaufman County Courthouse two months earlier.
A light-colored sedan was believed to be involved in both crimes, and a suspect in dark tactical clothes was described by witnesses at the Hasse killing.
The storage unit contained a white Ford Crown Victoria, trunks full of tactical gear, 30 weapons and a device described by ATF agent Matthew Johnson as an arsonist’s torch kit.
The device consisted of a lighter fluid container, rope, a tennis ball and a lighter.
Johnson said the device could be lit and thrown into a building or car to cause tremendous injury or damage.
“It would burn quickly and hot and destroy anything that could come back to yourself, any trace of evidence that you’d leave — hair, skin, fibers, anything like that,” Johnson said. “Everything I would need to torch or burn the inside of that car, is right there.”
In his opening statement Monday, prosecutor Bill Wirskye told the jury the murders were retribution for the 2012 burglary and theft conviction the prosecutors won against Williams, which cost him his justice of the peace position and his license to practice law.
Williams was also a Texas State Guard member.
Tuesday, David Scott Hunt, a friend from the Texas State Guard, testified about a January 2013 lunch meeting he had with Williams.
“During the lunch he had, for the lack of a better word, vented, about everything from his financial situation, his work situation and feeling that he had been wronged in the previous case,” Hunt said.
Hunt said he was concerned that Williams asked for help disposing of gun parts.
“It was very uncomfortable, I didn’t respond. I changed the conversation at that point,” he said.
But after Williams' April 2013 arrest, Hunt said he contacted authorities and shared e-mail he exchanged with Williams before and after the meeting as proof.
“Frankly, I was more concerned he might hurt himself more than anybody else at that point,” Hunt said.
The firing portion of the gun that killed the McLellands has never been found, but Tuesday a ballistics expert said that a bullet fragment found in the storage unit matches 16 spent shell casings recovered from the McLellands’ home.
The trial is expected to last at least a week.
Williams estranged wife, Kim, is listed as a witness and has been cooperating with authorities. She is also charged in the case, but is to be tried separately. The prosecutor said she has made no deal for her cooperation.
NBC 5 reporter Ken Kalthoff is tweeting during the trial. Keep up with the latest updates below.