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DA: Staff vigilant after murders of Kaufman County prosecutors

 

BY VALERIE REDDELL
Editor
polknews@gmail.com

LIVINGSTON —After Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were found murdered in their North Texas home over the weekend, Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon said staff members in his Livingston office — as in any other prosecutor's office in Texas — are being more cautious and extra security measures have been put in place, although Hon said he did not think it would be wise to comment on exactly what those extra measures entailed. "I hope they solve the situation up there as quickly as possible, but until they do, I think everyone has to wonder whether it is isolated to Kaufman County or whether it is something more widespread," Hon said Tuesday. Since the double-murder follows on the heels of the January murder of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, who was killed near his courthouse office, many prosecutors suspect the murders are some form of retaliation. Hasse was involved in an investigation of a white supremacist group, leading to a theory that they are connected to the three murders. McLelland had been investigating the murder of his assistant. Over the last 30 years, only 13 prosecutors have been killed in the United States. Hon added that in his role as president of the Texas County and District Attorneys Association, that group will be assisting Kaufman County however it can in appointing a new district attorney and moving forward with prosecuting the cases currently on the docket. Kaufman County is roughly twice the size of Polk County. Hon said McLelland was not as individually involved in trial work. Those duties were largely handled by Hasse, the first victim. Symbolically, McLelland is a larger target and he handles many duties in the office other than trying cases that it will be hard for someone else to just walk into — unless he delegated, Hon said. In Texas, the elected District Attorney is responsible for the budget and personnel in his office as well as a number of other administrative duties. "They lost a good trial prosecutor and an administrator within two months of one another," Hon said. "Now they have to try to manage their caseload that's probably pretty busy while they grieve on top of all that." Typically in major felony cases in rural communities the district attorney's office is involved in the investigation almost immediately, so losing a prosecutor who has memory of the case from the time of the incident can be delaying. If the defendant has not been released on bail, there are strict time deadlines to meet as well. "Depending on the nature of the case, some are easier to pick up and run with than others. Engaging in organized crime or sexual abuse — those take a little more time to great ready for trial anyway. It would be difficult for somebody from the outside to come in and pick those up," Hon said.

 

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