Thousands Remember McLellands, Search For Their Killer Continues
MESQUITE, Texas (AP) — A slain North Texas district attorney and his wife were mourned Thursday by a shaken community that recalled the couple’s love, warmth and public service as law enforcement continued the search for their killers.
Mike and Cynthia McLelland shared a single, flag-draped casket inside a suburban Dallas church. Cynthia’s remains were cremated and placed inside the coffin with the body of her husband, the Kaufman County district attorney.
Friends and colleagues at the service described them as the perfect mismatch: an outgoing Army veteran known for his wit and humor, and a quieter partner who loved quilting and supported her husband’s work.
Dozens of law enforcement officers and public officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, were among the hundreds who attended Thursday’s service, five days after the couple was found shot to death in their home near Forney, about 20 miles east of Dallas.
McLelland had addressed many of the same people two months earlier, after the slaying of Mark Hasse, one of his prosecutors. Hasse was gunned down near the Kaufman County courthouse while going to work.
No arrests have been made in either case. The reward for information leading to a conviction has been doubled to $200,000.
Christina Foreman, one of the five children the couple shared, said both her mother and stepfather “loved every minute” of their public service. She challenged the audience to stand up for what they believe in.
“They would have done it exactly the same way, because Mike believed in making a difference,” Foreman said.
Bruce Bryant, chief investigator for the district attorney’s office, broke down in tears as he remembered his former boss.
“We will not stop pursuing justice,” Bryant said. “We will not give up the good fight. We will not stop doing God’s work. We will pause only to celebrate the lives of those we have lost, but we will not stop.”
Surrounding the McLellands’ casket were mementos of their life together — portraits, a soldier’s jacket from Mike McLelland’s Army service and a quilt to commemorate one of Cynthia McLelland’s favorite hobbies.
Two officers stood watch as dozens more sat in the audience. Officers in the balcony behind the stage could be seen raising white-gloved hands to their eyes during the service.
Perry said he had spoken to McLelland weeks earlier at the state Capitol in Austin. Perry credited both McLellands for their public service: Mike as a 20-year Army veteran and district attorney, Cynthia as a nurse who worked at a state hospital.
Perry said both were aware of the dangers of the district attorney’s job.
“It’s an art form. It’s a calling, and one of the more difficult ones, I imagine,” Perry said in a quiet, sometimes halting voice.
Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood, the county’s chief administrative official, said he got to know Mike McLelland while the two were campaigning for office three years ago.
“I knew immediately how intelligent he was,” Wood said. “But he was quite a character too.”
Friends remembered Mike ribbing a pastor about the length of his sermons and Cynthia repeatedly going back to one store to buy gifts for relatives and friends.
They also recalled Mike running a tough campaign for district attorney — and his drive to prosecute criminals and pursue justice.
“If Cynthia was all warmth and motherhood, Mike was a warrior,” Bryant said.
In the months after Hasse was killed, McLelland began to carry a gun everywhere and took extra caution when answering his door. He told The Associated Press in an interview shortly before his death that he was warning his employees that they needed to be more cautious as well.
“The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it,” he said of dealing with the danger, “because they’re going to need it more in the future.”
Several people Thursday remembered that spirit of persistence and defiance.
Standing in front of the casket, Foreman told the audience they had a responsibility not to let fear stop them from fighting to do right thing. She said she believed her mother and stepfather had prepared her for this moment, when she and her siblings must go on without them.
“The right thing is never easy,” Foreman said. She added: “And he knew that. And he stood up anyway.”