Mike McLelland Murder: Texas prosecutors put on high alert after slaying of district attorney and his wife, authorities say

District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were found dead in their suburban Dallas home Saturday, shot multiple times with an assault rifle. This is the second time in two months a Kaufman County prosecutor has been killed. Anna Werner reports.
Another prosecutor killed in Kaufman County, Texas
District Attorney Mike McLelland (left) and his wife Cynthia were found dead in their suburban Dallas home on March 30, 2013

(CBS/AP) KAUFMAN, Texas - The bodies of a Texas district attorney and his wife were found shot to death in their house Saturday, causing law enforcement to be on high alert and beef up security for other prosecutors in the state.

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife, 65-year-old Cynthia, were found dead in their home near Forney, about 20 miles east of Dallas. Their deaths come two months after one of McLelland's assistant district attorneys was gunned down in a parking lot near his courthouse office.

Authorities haven't said much about their investigation into the latest killings, including whether they have any leads or a theory about why the couple was killed. But prosecutors confirmed they're taking steps to better protect themselves and their staffs.

McLelland was elected DA in 2010 and is the 13th prosecutor killed in the U.S. since the National Association of District Attorneys began keeping count in the 1960s.

Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson said he accepted the Houston sheriff's offer of 24-hour security for him and his family after learning about the slayings, mostly over concerns for his family's safety. Anderson said he also would take precautions at his office, the largest one in Texas, which has more than 270 prosecutors.

"I think district attorneys across Texas are still in a state of shock," Anderson said Sunday.

Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon declined to discuss specific steps his staff has taken and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins declined to comment on the issue, citing safety concerns.

The death of McLelland and his wife came less than two weeks after Colorado's prison chief Tom Clements was shot to death at his front door on March 19, and a couple of months after Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in a parking lot a block from his courthouse office on Jan. 31. No arrests were made in Hasse's slaying.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes would not give details Sunday of how the killings unfolded and said there was nothing to indicate for certain whether the DA's slaying was connected to Hasse's.

El Paso County, Colo., sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Joe Roybal said investigators found no evidence so far connecting the Texas killings to the Colorado case, but added: "We're examining all possibilities."

Clements was killed when he answered the doorbell at his home outside Colorado Springs. Evan Spencer Ebel, a white supremacist and former Colorado inmate suspected of shooting Clements, died in a shootout with Texas deputies two days later about 100 miles from Kaufman.

McLelland himself, in an Associated Press interview shortly after the Colorado slaying, raised the possibility that Hasse was gunned down by a white supremacist gang.

McLelland said his office prosecuted several cases against racist gangs, who have a strong presence around Kaufman County, a mostly rural area dotted with subdivisions, with a population of about 104,000.

"We put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood around here in the past year," he said.

McLelland said he carried a gun everywhere around town, a bedroom community for the Dallas area. He figured assassins were more likely to try to attack him outside. He said he had warned all his employees to be constantly on the alert.

"The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it," he said of dealing with the danger, "because they're going to need it more in the future."

The number of attacks on prosecutors, judges and senior law enforcement officers in the U.S. has spiked in the past three years, according to Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County, Calif., district attorney's office who tracks such cases.

Neighbors said sheriff's deputies were parked in the McLelland's driveway for about a month after Hasse's slaying.

The FBI and the Texas Rangers joined the investigation into the McLellands' deaths.

McLelland and his wife were the parents of two daughters and three sons. One son is a police officer in Dallas. The couple moved into the home a few years ago, Forney Mayor Darren Rozell said.

"Real friendly, became part of our community quickly," Rozell said. "They were a really pleasant, happy couple."