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Kaufman County Killings Have State Officials Increasing Security

kaufman county da mike mclelland-january 2013-Bill Zeeble-kera.jpg
Bill Zeeble

Family and friends of the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife who were killed last weekend are starting to move on following a public memorial service. Evidence of a motive is driving the investigation in the direction of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Rick Perry is offering a reward for tips that lead to arrests in the case and says authorities should also look at drug cartels; one expert doesn't think that cartel involvement is likely. Finally, an update on the Texas Legislature's budget, which passed the house last night.

Loved ones remember slain DA and his wife

Texas is grieving after the murders of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia. The two were laid to rest Friday morning in Wortham, where McClelland grew up.

A public memorial service was held on Thursday at First Baptist Church of Sunnyvale in Mesquite, which is just outside Dallas. KERA’s Bill Zeeble was at the service and reports that Christina Foreman fought through her grief with defiance at the memorial service for her parents.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas

Who is responsible for the murder of the McLellands and Kaufman County Deputy District Attorney Mark E. Hasse months earlier?

Since these murders, district attorneys and courthouses across the state have been on high alert with beefed-up security, and there is an awareness that law enforcement itself is under attack in Texas.

One dominant theory points the finger of suspicion at the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and though at this point it is still speculation, there is mounting evidence that demonstrates a possible motive.

In November, 34 members of the brotherhood were indicted on federal racketeering charges. Among the agencies involved in that prosecution was the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office.

Hasse was killed the day the FBI issued a press release stating that two brotherhood members were pleading guilty to the racketeering charges.

Brian Levin is the director of the Center for the study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University and has been tracking the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

"ABT, and even these drug cartel groups operating in the United States, have not done this kind of stuff. Most of the stuff that ABT does with regard to violence relates to street violence and internal discipline of their own members or recruits or would-be members...  South of the border, we've seen some of these drug cartels engage in similar violence. So while an argument could be made that it's ABT - and I think that ABT should be on any radar screen of those looking at this - it would be foolhardy to exclude drug entities, as well as people who have some idiosyncratic reason or some personal experience with that prosecutor's office. To be sure, ABT is an obvious group to be spotlighted until such time that something else excludes them, and right now I don't think that exists."

Perry says Mexican drug cartels are also suspects

Governor Rick Perry announced on Thursday a cash reward for anyone who has information about the crimes. Perry announced the Governor’s Office is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or people responsible for the Kaufman County D.A. office murders.

Additionally, the FBI has launched billboards throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico encouraging tipsters to contact Crime Stoppers with any information.

There’s also speculation that the murders could be the work of Mexican Drug Cartels – a theory that Perry publicly drew attention to while being interviewed this week on Fox News.

Perry later softened those remarks after taking some criticism.

Drug cartel involvement unlikely

Experts in the methods and operations of the Mexican Drug Cartels said it was unlikely that they were responsible for the murders. Nathan Jones is the Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy at the Baker Institute.

"DEA agent Enrique Camarina, a U.S. DEA agent operating in Mexico. He was kidnapped, and the U.S. government had a powerful deterrent effect by short term shutting down the border, and putting incredible pressure on the Mexican government to make sure his body was turned over. As a result, there has been kind of this rule within the Mexican cartel/drug trafficking world, that U.S. law enforcement is off limits, and that you have to be very careful when dealing with U.S. law enforcement. That's one of the reasons why I'm very skeptical about Mexican cartel involvement."

Also in this episode: The Texas legislative budget

Thursday in the Texas house of representatives there was  a lively day and night of debate over the state budget for 2014 and 2015.  The price tag is $193.8 billion, and it passed with bi-partisan support 135 to 12.

Among the 12 dissenters San Antonio Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer – a prominent voice of opposition in Texas.

"We made some miserable cuts in the areas of public education, higher education and public health two years ago and kids suffered because of it teachers suffered because of it, families suffered because of it, and here today we are sitting on pots of money that we haven't seen in a very long time. We have about $11.8 billion in the rainy day fund. The current budget bill that was voted on last night still left about $800 million unspent under the spending cap, and well over $1 billion above the spending cap and we still have money that we can still spend in the 2013 budget. So we have three accounts with money, yet we passed an appropriations bill that is going to be funding, in pre-pupil spending, almost $1,000 less per child in public education. That's not right."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi