KAUFMAN (CBS 11 NEWS) – The man who gunned down an East Texas district attorney and his wife, and is charged with killing another prosecutor, was once an Eagle Scout, played the trumpet, and showed promise as a child, testimony showed today.READ MORE: US Supreme Court To Consider Controversial Texas Abortion Law
“I was shocked,” said Billy Wayne Scheets, a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy , when he learned his old high school classmate, Eric Williams, had been arrested in the revenge killings last year.
Williams’ aunt, his former scoutmaster and Scheets were among the witnesses called by defense lawyers in hopes of convincing a jury that he should not get the death penalty after the same jury found him guilty last week in the killings of Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.
Former prison officials were also called in an attempt to show what it would be like for the former lawyer and justice of the peace if he were allowed to live out his life behind bars, rather than go to the death chambers.
Scheets said that until he entered the courtroom, he had not seen Williams in 20 years, but remembered him as a focused student who excelled in math.
“He performed well,” Scheets told the jury. “The person I knew in high school didn’t strike me as the type of person that would do such a thing,” he said of the killings that made national headlines.
Along with the deaths of the McLellands on March 30, 2013, Williams is charged with fatally shooting chief prosecutor Mark Hasse on Jan. 31, 2013, as he walked to work at the Kaufman County Courthouse.
Investigators say Williams, in well-planned attacks, was retaliating against McLelland and Hasse for prosecuting him a year earlier for burglary and theft of three computers.
The convictions cost him his job as an elected JP, and his license as a lawyer.
“He very much wanted to go to college, get a degree and get a job,” said David Houtt, a senior science researcher at Texas A&M University, who was a friend and classmate with Williams when both attended high school in Azle, near Fort Worth.
Houtt said Williams was his best man in his first marriage, and they both played in the high school band – Houtt on the trombone, Williams on the trumpet.
“He was one of the better players,” Houtt told the jurors.
Williams’ former scoutmaster, Al Graham, recalled that the now-convicted killer, as a boy, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and that he was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, an honor society for the Boy Scouts of America.READ MORE: Texas Mother And Son Arrested In Wyoming For Murder In Oklahoma
Graham described to the jury pictures of Williams in Troop 147, pitching tents and building campfires with other Boy Scouts.
Williams’ elderly aunt, Lavon Humphries, needed assistance as she walked to the witness stand.
She told jurors she wanted to talk about her nephew before she went to treatment for Stage 4 cancer, which had spread to her bones and brain.
Humphries said Williams showed promise as a child, and was one of the brightest in her family.
“He was smarter…He didn’t have problems with liquor,” she said.
And when Williams became a lawyer, and then an elected peace officer, he looked after family members who were less fortunate, Humphries told the jury.
“Anything they needed, he took care of,” she said.
When asked whether she would write letters to her nephew, if he were spared his life and, instead, sent to prison, Humphries answered in a weak voice: “Yes.”
And then she was assisted from the witness stand.
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