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ROCKWALL (CBSDFW.COM) – A jury of seven men and five women took less than two hours to find a disgraced former JP guilty of capital murder in the deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.
Standing as the jury entered the courtroom, Williams bowed his head and slumped down in his chair as Judge Mike Snipes read the unanimous verdict.
Mike McLelland’s elderly mother began to cry, while other relatives and friends of the dead couple embraced.
Snipes said the punishment phase of the trial, in which the state will seek the death penalty, will begin Monday morning.
The jury in the trial, which took only three days, heard from 28 witnesses, and was presented with a large amount of circumstantial evidence – something prosecutors said they needed to overcome the fact that a murder weapon was never found.
That evidence included showing that Williams sent anonymous emails to police, confessing to the shooting of the McLellands on Easter weekend 2013.
The state also presented evidence that showed Williams, under an alias, purchased an old police patrol car that he used in his getaway, and tricked a friend into renting a storage shed, where he stored, among other things, guns, ammo and a homemade explosive device.
The verdict capped a saga that gripped the East Texas county of Kaufman, where residents not only lost their top law enforcement officer, but also a senior prosecutor.
And what began with suspicions that drug lords or white supremacists were to blame, ended with the capture of a cherubic, seemingly scholarly man sworn to uphold the law – not savage it.
CBS 11 News was the first to learn that some suspected Williams of the killings.
In fact, Mike McLelland, before his death, met with CBS 11’s Senior Investigative Reporter Ginger Allen and Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr. and talked cautiously about his suspicions that Williams had killed his Senior Prosecutor.
Before the verdict was reached, after calling no witnesses for the defense, attorney Matthew Seymour said in closing arguments that “Eric Williams is not guilty” of killing The McLellands.
Seymour, the court appointed lawyer for Williams, noted that there was no hard evidence in the case against Williams, a former justice of the peace on trial for killing the McLellands in an act of rage and revenge.
“There is no known murder weapon in this case,” Seymour told the jury.
“There is not one piece of evidence – no DNA, no fingerprint, not one hair – nothing,” he said.
For part of the state’s closing argument, special prosecutor Toby Shook told the jury there is plenty of circumstantial evidence tying Williams to the killings, including computers and software equipment found in Williams’ home that showed he sent confessional emails to a Crime Stoppers tip line.
But Seymour argued those emails could have been sent by Williams’ estranged wife, Kim, who is charged as a co-conspirator in the case.
“Eric Williams was not the only person in that house …who actually
did type it? Who? You do not know,” Seymour told the jury.
He also argued that ‘there’s not a single eyewitness in this case.”
Special prosecutor Bill Wirskye countered by referring to Cynthia McLelland being killed.
“There was an eye witness, but he put a bullet in her brain,” Wirskye said
Near the end of his argument, with his voice rising as he pointed to Williams, Wirskye said: “There is a murderer in the courtroom.”
With that, Judge Mike Snipes dismissed the jury at 10:25 a.m. to begin deliberations.
They came back with their verdict about an hour and a half later, at 12:05 p.m.
Follow Jack Fink On Twitter For Trial Updates: @cbs11jack
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