Kaufman County, Texas, still doesn’t have justice for its two slain prosecutors. But it has a new district attorney and yet another man charged with making threats against public officials.
“There is danger,” Erleigh Norville Wiley, a Kaufman County judge appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to become the county’s top prosecutor, told reporters Thursday afternoon. “But, I mean, we’re all in danger in Kaufman County until we’ve figured out who’s done these horrible things to Mike and Cynthia and Mark.”
Investigators were still following leads in the recent slayings of Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, at their home near Forney, Texas, which came two months after the also-unsolved slaying of Assistant Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse in the parking lot of the county courthouse. The killing of two prosecutors from the same jurisdiction is unprecedented in modern American history.
Speculation has swirled about the possible involvement of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a violent white-supremacist gang rocked by a racketeering indictment in November that had reportedly issued threats against officials’ lives in retaliation.
On Wednesday, a Texas man nicknamed “Bozo” was indicted on charges of mailing threats to the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas from prison.
The indictment said the threats sent by Jesse Brister, 27, aka “Bozo,” on March 21 and March 28 were in retaliation for prosecution against the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, which began in prison before expanding to become one of the most dangerous gangs at large in Texas.
“Based on the serious nature of the threats in these letters, resources were diverted from important investigations, such as those in Kaufman County, to investigate these threats, which ultimately proved to be hoaxes,” U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña said in a statement.
Brister, currently incarcerated in the state’s Telford prison, is two years into serving a 10-year sentence for identity fraud. He was eligible for parole in July.
The letters were sent shortly before an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston handling the racketeering charges against the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas stepped down from the case April 2, citing unspecified “security reasons” that officials wouldn’t elaborate upon.
Another north Texas man had been arrested on suspicion of making threats against officials on a tip line for investigating the prosecutors’ slayings, and yet another was charged with posting on Facebook that he expected another Kaufman County assistant attorney to die.
On Tuesday, new Kaufman County appointee Wiley, who still requires confirmation by the Texas state Senate, swore the county prosecutor’s office would carry on despite an uneasy atmosphere.
“We understand the risk,” said Wiley, who projected confidence to the reporters asking her about the danger. “We’ve all stayed and are willing to accept it,” she said, adding that no other prosecutors, staff or investigators have left the office since the slayings.
Wiley also cited her upbringing in the county as playing a role in her decision to accept the job, despite some of her family’s misgivings. Gov. Perry’s staff had contacted her about taking the job, and she said she was interested, and honored.
“The way I was born and raised, if there’s something to be done, we need to do it,” she said, adding that when her brother came through town and she told him about taking the role, “he looked me square in the face and said, ‘That’s what mother would do.’ ”
Wiley added, “We’re gonna be the best district attorney’s office this size in the state of Texas. So hold on, let’s get going.”