The FBI and the Texas Rangers have taken the lead in the investigation of the shooting deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, whose bodies were found Saturday night inside their rural Forney, Texas, home.
The couple was discovered by a police officer friend who had stopped by to check on them and found the front door kicked open. Investigators said Mr. and Mrs. McLelland could have been dead for more than 24 hours before their bodies were discovered in a hallway and the front room. The murder weapon is suspected to be a .223-caliber assault rifle, similar to an AR-15. At least 14 shots had been fired.
The killings have put law enforcement agencies across Texas on high alert. Two months ago, Mr. McLelland’s top assistant, Deputy District Attorney Mark Hasse, was assassinated in broad daylight just a few steps from the county courthouse. He was killed on Jan. 31 as he walked to his office from a parking lot.
Investigators are trying to determine if the McLelland and Hasse shootings are linked, but no suspects have been publicly identified.
Kaufman County deputies had been guarding the McLelland home but were removed last week because Mr. McLelland did not think he needed it and did not want to waste taxpayer dollars.
Mr. McLelland, 63, was shot multiple times. His 65-year-old wife was shot once, authorities said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday expressed concern for the safety of Texas law enforcement officials.
“I suggest everyone should be careful about what goes on, whether they’re public officials or otherwise,” Mr. Perry told reporters in Austin, the state capital. “This I think is a clear concern to individuals who are in public life, particularly those who deal with some very mean and vicious individuals, whether they’re white supremacy groups or whether they’re the drug cartels that we have.”
When Hasse, 57, was killed, there was speculation that the prison-based Aryan Brotherhood of Texas was responsible for the shooting. On the day of the Hasse killing, the U.S. Justice Department had released a statement saying the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office was involved in a racketeering case against the white supremacist group.
Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican and a former Texas judge and prosecutor, told CNN his own suspicions centered on the Aryan Brotherhood. “It seems to me that a scenario may be developing that the district attorney’s office was investigating this gang, or another gang, and they wanted to prevent that investigation,” Mr. Poe said, although he did not elaborate nor cite any specific information.
Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood said at a news conference on Monday that it appeared the killings were not “just a random act … It has to be more than a coincidence.”
An indictment unsealed in November identified the Texas arm of the Aryan Brotherhood as a criminal enterprise responsible for murders, arson, assault and other crimes, adding that it was prone to “extreme violence and threats of violence to maintain internal discipline and retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with law enforcement.”
Mr. McLelland had publicly vowed to hunt down Hasse’s killer, saying at a news conference he was confident the person responsible would be brought to justice. On the very day his top deputy was killed, Mr. McLelland said, “We’re very confident that we’re going to find you, we’re going to pull you out of the hole you’re in, we’re going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
The District Attorney’s Office was closed Monday and authorities announced enhanced security measures for other government workers in Kaufman County in the wake of the killings.
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes talked only briefly with reporters, and did not discuss the investigation. He said, “It’s unnerving for the law enforcement community. It’s unnerving to the community at large.”
Mr. McLelland was a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army, having served in the Gulf War of 1990-91. He and his wife have five children, including a son who is an officer with the Dallas Police Department.