ROCKWALL -- Janice Gray, who met Eric Williams at a court coordinator's conference in the early 1990s, testified on Wednesday morning that she and Williams became friends and started a relationship.
Gray, who was a court coordinator in Coryell County at the time, went to his house in Kaufman a couple of times, but he never went to her home.
Williams, at the time, was court coordinator for 86th District Court Judge Glen Ashworth.
Then, she met someone closer to home, and when Williams called her, she told him she wanted to pursue the relationship where she lived.
Gray told Williams the decision was the best one for her at the time, especially since she and Williams were not in an exclusive relationship.
Williams, she said, seemed fine and did not say a lot, other than he was afraid that would happen.
Gray asked Williams not to call her, but she said he called a couple of times after that before the next conference.
They saw each other at the hotel and he asked her to dinner. But Gray told Williams she was going to have dinner with friends.
He told her he had something for her son. It was a gun, which she believed he pulled from behind him or from a holster.
“I was trying to not make eye contact with him,” Gray said. She turned and walked away.
That evening, Gray and her friends went to a sports bar and that is where she encountered Williams again.
He walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder, asking her to leave her friends and talk with him.
When she was going to go back to her friends, Gray said Williams told her he had a gun, and if she walked away, he would use it.
“He said, ‘I have nothing to lose,’” Gray said.
Gray was shocked and did not say anything, but then she started crying. Her friends, noticing something was wrong, walked over to her and they walked away from Williams.
They asked Gray what was going on and she told them what had happened.
Conference organizers were notified and police called. An officer stayed outside her hotel room that night and escorted her to a class the next morning.
He told her they could not find Williams, but Gray saw Williams. The officer, she said, told her to go to the restroom and stay there while they went to get Williams.
After her class was over, she went to the Houston Police Department to tell officers what had happened the night before.
Police, she said, had spoken with Ashworth, who wanted Williams to return. So she did not press charges.
When questioned on Wednesday, she said Williams seemed to be a very intelligent man.
But at the second conference, Gray said he was different and seemed agitated.
The next time Gray saw Williams was at his burglary trial in 2012 when Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his top assistant, Mark Hasse, asked her to testify.
Gray, who currently is the court clerk for the 52nd District Court in Coryell County, did not want to testify but said she was subpoenaed.
The next time she heard his name was when Hasse and McLelland, along with his wife, Cynthia, were murdered.
She saw a TV clip of him on a Segway saying he did not blame police for looking at him as a suspect, but he did not kill them.
“I turned to my husband and said he did it,” Gray said. “It was the look on his face. I saw it before.”
When cross examined by lead defense attorney Matthew Seymour, Gray said Williams seemed like a nice man and was very polite to her – until they broke up.
Gray said he was different after that.
“I saw the look in his eye that I saw before and it kind of freaked me out a bit,” Gray said.
The prosecution’s last two witnesses were Kaufman County Court at Law Judge Dennis Jones and attorney Jon Burt.
Jones testified that he overheard Williams say he was going to kill a fellow lawyer.
On cross examination, Seymour asked Jones if he believed Williams was having a bad day. Jones believed he was.
Seymour asked Jones if any harm had beset Burt or his family or his house. Jones said it had not.
Burt, who referred to himself as just a country lawyer, said he was involved in a real estate case that Williams was assigned to as a mediator.
He said he received a call from Williams’ wife, Kim, who told him that Williams was in the hospital and was going to be released.
So the mediation session was rescheduled.
However, the opposing attorney visited Burt’s office on the original mediation date and wanted to know why the session was not being conducted.
When Burt told him it had been canceled, the other attorney was not happy.
“He was not a nice man,” Burt said. “He started threatening sanctions against Eric.”
Burt said when he returned from Kemp, Jones, who was an attorney at the time, told him about Williams’ comments and that Williams was upset.
Burt did not understand why Williams made the threats Jones relayed to him.
“I was concerned about that,” Burt said.
Seymour asked him if any harm came to his family and Burt said it had not.
The state rested, and after lunch, Matthew Peck gave the defense team’s opening statement – but not before defense attorney John Wright asked Dallas County Criminal District Court No. 7 Judge Mike Snipes for three things.
First, Wright asked Snipes for a continuance because of the amount of evidence. As in the past, Snipes denied the motion.
Second, Wright asked for a mistrial because of the “egregious” display of weapons before the jury on Tuesday. That motion also was denied.
And his third motion was for a second change of venue because of prejudicial publicity.
Again, Snipes denied the motion.
Then, Matthew Peck gave the defense team’s opening statement.
He recounted religious teachings of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
Peck also reminded the jury of how Jesus urged people not to seek revenge. He told the jury this because society has a tendency to seek revenge.
Revenge, Peck said, often feels good, even uplifting.
Peck acknowledged that Williams must be punished because he had been convicted of capital murder – the deaths of Cynthia McLelland, and in the same transaction, her husband, Mike.
Peck said Williams will be punished severely. He said the jury would not hear any reasons or rationale for the death of Cynthia McLelland.
Williams, he said, does not present a continued threat to society – including guards or fellow inmates – because of his age and health. Williams has Type 1 diabetes.
Peck said if Williams’ motive for the murders was revenge, that revenge has been exacted and he no longer presents a threat.
He said on Thursday, the jury would hear about Williams and his road to ruination.
“We ask that you listen with kindness,” Peck said.
The story, he said, has already gone too far. It started 2 ½ years ago when a group of people decided to punish Williams. They killed his livelihood and erased his identity.
“Is it really right to destroy someone’s life over computers?” he asked.
Peck urged the jurors to consider all the good Williams could do in prison if they choose to sentence him to life without parole.
“Eric has such a gift,” Peck said.
The first witness for the defense was a fellow attorney, attorney Jenny Parks.
“It was a ridiculous prosecution,” Parks said.
The case never should have made it to court, she said.
Williams was always doing good.
Hasse, Parks said, also was a friend of hers.
“He was always aggressive in his prosecutorial style, not just with Eric,” she said. “I think he was wrongly convicted.”
Under questioning by Peck, Parks said it was unfathomable that Williams could have committed the murders.
She said Williams was quiet, pretty shy and reserved, a little anti-social.
Under cross examination by Wirskye, Parks said she did not connect Williams to the McLelland and Hasse murders.
Wirskye asked Parks if she believed the prosecution of Williams in 2012 was malicious and over the top.
“Yes, it was over the top,” Parks said.
The sentencing hearing will resume at 8:45 a.m. on today.