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Texas to seek death penalty in killings of prosecutors

A photograph is displayed at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas
A photograph is displayed at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas

By Jana J. Pruet

KAUFMAN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas will seek the death penalty against a former justice of the peace accused of killing of three people, including two local prosecutors, in shootings that spawned conspiracy theories and terrified a small community near Dallas.

Eric Williams and his wife, Kim, are accused in the deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, at their home in March.

They are also accused of gunning down Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse near a county courthouse in January.

McLelland and Hasse had prosecuted Eric Williams for the theft of office computer monitors.

Eric and Kim Williams both face capital murder charges. Eric Williams is also charged with making a terroristic threat, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Prosecutors said on Friday they will pursue the death penalty against Eric Williams, but remain undecided on whether they will take similar actions against Kim Williams.

Dressed in a suit, Eric Williams sat quietly in the courtroom during the hearing that was just down the hall from where he had once presided as a justice of the peace.

His wife has told police she drove the getaway car in the Hasse killing at the courthouse and was a passenger in the car when her husband shot the McLellands, according to arrest records.

Eric Williams lost his license to practice law last year after the two prosecutors were able to convict him of theft. Kim Williams has filed for divorce.

Jury selection is expected to begin next spring and trial in October 2014, according to Dallas County District Court Judge Michael Snipes, who was named to preside over the case in Kaufman County, about 30 miles southeast of Dallas.

Bill Wirskye and Toby Shook of Dallas have been named as special prosecutors in the case.

(Reporting by Jana J. Pruet; Writing by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune and Leslie Gevirtz)

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