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Looking For Clues In Killings Of Two Texas Prosecutors

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"We are all on heightened alert. There's no question about that," county Judge Bruce Wood told CNN on Monday.

The first murder occurred on Jan. 31, when Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down outside the county courthouse by one or two assailants, who reportedly got out of a sedan, shot Hasse, and fled. According to The New York Times, witnesses have told investigators that "the killer or killers appeared to have had their faces covered and wore black clothing and tactical-style vests." A large reward for information was offered, and staff in the district attorney's office immediately began poring over Hasse's files for leads in the case.

"Everybody wants to get their licks in on these guys," county District Attorney Mike McLelland told The Dallas Morning News two days after Hasse's murder.

Saturday evening, eight weeks after Hasse's killing, authorities found McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, shot dead inside their Forney, Texas home.

No arrests have been made in either case. No suspects have been publicly named. And law enforcement officials have not said publicly that they believe the two murders to be related. But beefed-up security was planned for the county courthouse on Monday, and the district attorney's office was closed to the public.

"It was a shock with Mark Hasse, and now you can just imagine the double shock," Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh told the Morning News on Sunday. "I really can't confirm that it's related, but you always have to assume until it's proven otherwise."

Earlier this month, McLelland had told the newspaper that he was carrying a gun everywhere and being careful when he answered the door at home.

Information floating around in the media about the case remain speculative. One angle that investigators had looked at in the Hasse case was the possible involvement of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang. The same day Hasse was killed, the Justice Department announced that two members of the gang had pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. Among the many agencies listed as having worked on the investigation in that case was the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office. In December, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin warning that the gang was planning to retaliate against law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation.

"We put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood around here in the past year," McLelland told the Associated Press in an interview after Hasse's murder.

According to media reports, investigators have even looked into whether the Kaufman killings are connected to the murder of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements, who was shot dead after answering his front door last month. The suspect in that case, Evan Ebel, was reportedly a member of a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado called the 211 Crew. Ebel died last month following a high speed chase and a shoot-out with law enforcement agents in Texas. But no material link between the Colorado and Texas cases has yet been made public.

At least one clue indicates that the murders of Hasse and McLelland may have been carried out by separate killers. A law enforcement source told The New York Times that investigators had recovered shell casings in the shooting of the McLellands. No casings were recovered in Hasse's shooting, "indicating that his killer or killers had more experience," according to the Times.

Still, authorities believe that McLelland was killed for a reason.

"I'm really trying to stress for people to remain calm," Forney Mayor Darren Rozell told the Times. "This appeared to be a targeted attack and not a random attack."

About The Author

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com