Texas district attorney Mike McClelland and his wife Cynthia were found dead, just two months after McClelland's top assistant was also shot dead. Authorities are exploring a link between the two crimes and a possible link to a white supremacist group. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.
An official in the Texas county where a prosecutor and his wife were shot to death over the weekend said Monday that the ordeal was “surreal” and that authorities there were on alert.
“We’re still in shock,” Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood told reporters.
District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down at their home outside Dallas on Saturday two months after another prosecutor there was shot to death.
A white supremacist group has been thought to be planning retaliation after indictments in a racketeering case, and the state has recently warned about Mexican drug cartels.
But authorities have not said the killings of the two prosecutors are linked and have not announced any leads in the McLellands’ deaths.
“We are very much on alert,” said Wood, whose title is the equivalent of a county administrator or commissioner. “We have some folks out there that intend to do harm to public officials.”
He said that the county was open for business.
McLelland had vowed to catch the killer of the other prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, who was gunned down near the county courthouse on his way to work Jan. 31.
McLelland told reporters that day: “I hope the people that did this are watching. Because we're very confident that we're going to find you, pull you out of whatever hole you're in, bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gov. Rick Perry on Monday urged law enforcement officers to be careful.
Investigative Crime Reporter Michelle Sigona and Tanya Eiserer from the "Dallas Morning News" join Tamron Hall to discuss the murder of Texas prosecutor, Mike Mclelland and wife Cynthia.
“This I think is a clear concern to individuals who are in public life, particularly those who deal with some very mean and vicious individuals, whether they’re white supremacy groups or whether they're the drug cartels that we have,” he said.
Mayor Darren Rozell of Forney, which is in Kaufman County, told NBC News after McLelland’s killing that it appeared to be targeted and that civilians probably were not at risk.
Asked about suggestions that a white supremacist group may have been involved, Rozell said he had seen media reports to that effect but “really couldn’t comment.”
On the day Hasse was killed, the Justice Department announced that the Kaufman County DA’s office was among investigative bodies involved in a racketeering case against the white supremacist group Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
A district attorney and his wife were found shot dead in their Texas home on Saturday, a chilling crime that has become a murder mystery. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.
The hate group was suspected of “actively planning retaliation” against police and prosecutors who helped gain indictments in Houston against dozens of its members, the Dallas Morning News reported in February.
Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican and former Texas prosecutor, told CNN that his suspicions in the McLelland killing centered on the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacy group, but he did not say where he was getting his information.
In February, the state's Department of Public Safety issued a report highlighting the threat of Mexican drug cartels operating in Texas.
The FBI and the Texas Rangers were leading the investigations, which at one point examined possible ties to the March 19 shooting death of Colorado prisons director Tom Clements, Reuters reported, adding that no connection had been found.
The McLellands were “deeply in love,” Tonya Ratcliff, the county tax assessor and a longtime friend of the couple, told NBCDFW.com.
“You would never hear one of them say an ugly word about the other one,” she said. "They were just a wonderful couple, and it was a pleasure to be around them — and I will miss them.”
A tip line has been set up for the investigation. Anyone with information to share with investigators is asked to call 1-877-847-7522.
On Monday evening, the Kaufman County Sheriff's office announced that Brandi Fernandez, First Assistant District Attorney, will fill the position of interim DA for a period of 21 days.
Reuters contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Mon Apr 1, 2013 5:52 AM EDT