ROCKWALL (CBSDFW.COM) – Convicted killer Eric Williams sat quietly on Monday morning as the jury, who will decide whether he should live or die, heard about another murder he is accused of committing.
The January 31, 2013 shooting death of Mark Hasse, the chief deputy prosecutor in Kaufman County, was played out before the jury that found Williams guilty last week of killing Hasse’s boss, District Attorney Mike McLelland, and the DA’s wife, Cynthia McLelland.
The killing of Hasse, near the county courthouse lawn, was “just as gruesome” as the shootings of the McLellands two months later, on Easter weekend, special prosecutor Bill Wirskye told the jurors. Pointing to Williams at the defense table, Wirskye said, “This man, dressed in dark with a black mask… gunned him down in cold blood.”
“Mark Hasse died at his hands for the very same reasons as the McLellands died,” the prosecutor said.
Williams is convicted of capital murder in the McLelland deaths, and is charged in the killing of Hasse. Prosecutors say he was driven by rage and retaliation after the two men prosecuted him for felony theft of county computer equipment. As a result of the theft conviction, Williams lost his job as a justice of the peace, and his license as a lawyer.
Jurors were told they would hear from witnesses who saw Hasse gunned down, and watch a surveillance video of attempts to save the prosecutors’s life.
One of those witnesses, attorney Linda Bush, said she was driving near the Kaufman County courthouse square on the morning of January 31, 2013 when, “I saw two men in a shoving match.”
“They were speaking to one another… it was a face-to-face contact,” Bush said.
And then, she told the jury, “I saw the larger man shoot the smaller man… the shooter put the gun to Mark’s neck and shot down.” Bush said she followed the gunman’s getaway car a short distance, and tried to call 911, but was shaking too bad to operate her cell phone.
She then returned to the fallen man, recognized him as Hasse, and began performing CPR. “There were several breaths, they sounded guttural,” and then Hasse died, Bush told the jury.
Under cross examination from defense attorney Matthew Seymour, Bush said she initially described the gunman as someone heavier and taller than Williams. And she said she still is not certain if the assailant she saw was, in fact, the former JP.
Another witness, former Kaufman County employee Patricia Luna, said she was working out on the morning of the shooting when she heard a “weird noise,” and looked out the window. “I saw a person, he was shooting in the air,” Luna said, adding, “He wore a mask… bulletproof vest… and army boots.”
Luna said she saw the gunman jump into the passenger side of a car, which prosecutors say was driven by Williams’ estranged wife, Kim, a charged co-conspirator in the case.
The witness, a friend of Hasse’s, began to cry when she described what she saw next, when she stepped outside. “I saw Mark… another girl was giving him CPR, but he was dead already. There was a lot of blood,” Luna said.
The jury was also told that Hasse pleaded for his life before he was shot dead near the courthouse square. Witness Martin Cerda said he overheard Hasse saying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” before a masked attacker shot him down, emptying one gun into the victim and then pulling another gun.
After a break, the jury heard and saw the final moments of prosecutor Mark Hasse’s life, captured on police video as an officer administer CPR. Sgt. Jason Stastny with the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department tried to reassure the dying Hasse, telling him repeatedly, “C’mon buddy… keep breathing… there you go, keep breathing for me… ambulance is almost here.”
The punishment phase of the trial is expected to last at least through the week. And it is expected that Kim Williams will be called to the witness stand before the jury begins deliberating on whether her husband should get death or go to prison.
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