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Supremacists suspect in killings of Texas DA, assistant

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 7:12 p.m.

KAUFMAN, Texas — Two days after a Texas district attorney and his wife were found shot to death in their home, authorities have said little about their investigation or any potential suspects.

But suspicion in the slayings shifted to a white supremacist gang with a long history of violence and retribution that was also the focus of a December law enforcement bulletin warning that its members might try to attack police or prosecutors.

Four top leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas were indicted in October for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking. Two months later, authorities issued the bulletin warning that the gang might try to retaliate against law enforcement for the investigation that led to the arrests of 34 of its members on federal charges.

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were found dead on Saturday in their East Texas home. The killings were especially jarring because they happened just a couple of months after one of the county's assistant district attorneys, Mark Hasse, was killed in a parking lot near his courthouse office.

McLelland was part of a multi-agency task force that took part in the investigation of the Aryan Brotherhood. The task force included the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as police departments in Houston and Fort Worth.

Investigators have declined to say whether the group is the focus of their efforts, but the state Department of Public Safety bulletin warned that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is “involved in issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death' to law enforcement officials involved in the recent case.”

Terry Pelz, a former Texas prison warden and expert on the Aryan Brotherhood, said killing law enforcement representatives would be uncharacteristic of the group.

But Pelz, who worked in the Texas prison system for 21 years, added that the gang has a history of threatening officials and of killing its own members or rivals. He suggested that if the Aryan Brotherhood was behind the slayings in Kaufman County, some sort of disruption in the gang's operations might have prompted their retaliation.

That disruption might have occurred last year, when federal prosecutors in Houston in November announced indictments against 34 alleged members of the gang, including four of its top leaders in Texas. At the time, prosecutors called the indictment “a devastating blow to the leadership” of the gang.

Meanwhile, deputies escorted some Kaufman County employees into the courthouse on Monday after the slayings stirred fears that other public employees could be targeted. Law enforcement officers were seen patrolling outside the courthouse, one holding a semi-automatic weapon, while others walked around inside.

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