Witnesses to the killing of Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse took the stand Monday in the sentencing phase of Eric Williams’ trial for the shooting death of the wife of District Attorney Mike McLelland.
Jurors convicted Williams Thursday for the March 2013 death of Cynthia McLelland. She was shot along with her husband at their Forney home. Special prosecutors appointed to handle the case are seeking a death sentence.
The sentencing phase of the trial began with testimony about the January 2013 killing of Hasse in downtown Kaufman. The daylight shooting of a prosecutor shocked the nation, but it was never mentioned in the first part of the trial. The motive for the murders was said to be retaliation for the burglary and theft convictions the prosecutors won against Williams in 2012, ending his career as a lawyer.
Witness Martin Cerda works at an auto body shop beside the spot where Hasse was killed. Through an interpreter, Cerda said he heard the victim say, “I’m sorry,” then saw the gunman shoot the victim.
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“The deceased falls down. He comes up to him and fires again while he’s on the ground,” Cerda said.
The witness said the gunman used two different pistols in the shooting. Cerda said he worried that the gunman might shoot him after what he had seen, but the gunman just walked away.
Attorney Linda Bush said she was just driving up to the Kaufman County Courthouse as the confrontation happened.
“There was another shoving, and at that point in time, the shooter put the gun to Mark’s neck and shot him,” Bush said.
Bush, who is also a former police officer, said she watched the gunman jump into a silver colored sedan which she tried to follow for a couple of blocks. But she saw that the vehicle had no rear license plate and she returned to the shooting scene where she began CPR on Hasse.
“I wanted him to know help was coming,” she said.
Kaufman Police Officer Jason Stastny arrived quickly and took over the CPR.
Stastny was a few blocks away investigating a burglary when he heard five gunshots and then three more. In court, the jury saw Stastny’s patrol car video images of his arrival on the scene. It showed Stastny administering CPR and recorded sounds of Hasse struggling to breath and the screams of people at the scene.
Hasse was transported to Kaufman Presbyterian Hospital by paramedics who took over the CPR. A nurse testified that she recovered a bullet fragment from Hasse’s clothing and saw a gun he wore on his belt under his coat. Hasse evidently never had a chance to use his gun. He was declared dead at the hospital with gunshot wounds to his chest and head.
Monday’s witnesses all said the Hasse shooter wore dark clothing with a mask, and some said they could not even tell if he was a man or a woman. Special Prosecutor Bill Wirskye said in an opening statement that the jury would see evidence linking Williams to the guns recovered from Lake Tawakoni that were used to kill Hasse.
Wirskye said the Hasse murder case is “airtight” and he would ask the jury for the death penalty after all of the sentencing evidence is heard.
“In fact these three murders were the culmination, were the peak in an arc of past violence and anti-social, psychopathic behavior on the part of Eric Williams.” Wirskye said.
Wirskye also told the jury Williams estranged wife Kim was an accomplice the crimes. Kim Williams was never mentioned in the guilt phase of the trial but she will evidently be a state witness in the sentencing phase.
Williams’ defense lawyers presented no witnesses in the first phase of the trial but they’ve told the judge they intend to present a sentencing case in an effort to spare Williams life.
The trial could take at least another week.
NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff is tweeting live from the hearing. Stay up-to-date by following him on Twitter or reading below.