April 16, 2013

Elderly woman allegedly tried to have prosecutor killed

An 84-year-old Texan is accused of trying to pay $5,000 for a prosecutor's murder and $2,500 for an attack against a district attorney.

Michael Graczyk / The Associated Press

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Brett Ligon, the Montgomery County district attorney, talks about the alleged threat against him on Monday. An 84-year-old woman jailed on a theft charge allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill the prosecutor handling her case and to maim Ligon.

The Associated Press


KAUFMAN, Texas — Texas authorities investigating the killings of a district attorney and his wife are working to build a case against a former justice of the peace prosecuted last year by the slain official’s office, a law enforcement official said Monday. Eric Lyle Williams, 46, was arrested during the weekend and remains jailed on a charge of making a terroristic threat. He is being held on $3 million bond, but authorities have not publicly discussed details of the charge against him.

Williams’ arrest came after federal and local agents investigating the March 28 deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, searched Williams’ home and a storage facility, and investigators are now focused on trying to build a case against him, said the law enforcement official.

–The Associated Press

CONROE, Texas — An 84-year-old woman jailed on a theft charge allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill the Houston-area prosecutor handling her case and to maim his boss, one of the apparent targets said Monday.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said Dorothy Canfield allegedly sought to have him attacked and his assistant district attorney, Rob Freyer, slain. Neither man was injured in the alleged plot, which investigators said surfaced in early April.

Canfield allegedly wanted the attacks to appear similar to the recent unsolved killings of two other Texas prosecutors, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, according to Ligon. McLelland and his wife were found dead in their homes on March 30, about two months after Hasse was fatally shot outside the local courthouse.

"Dorothy Canfield hoped to capitalize on the tragic murder of the Kaufman County district attorney, his wife and assistant district attorney Mark Hasse to disrupt the prosecution of her theft charge in the most violent way possible," Ligon said.

Canfield faces charges of solicitation of capital murder and solicitation to commit aggravated assault on a public servant, Ligon said. Authorities allege Canfield told others of her plans to seek someone to kill Freyer and attack Ligon.

Canfield was being held Monday in jail in Conroe, about 30 miles north of Houston, on a property theft charge that involves allegations she posed as an immigration attorney to bilk clients. Canfield is not a lawyer, Ligon said. Bond was set at $500,000 in the theft case. Her attorney in that case did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Court records show various theft and forgery cases having been filed against Canfield, some dating back to 1993.

At a news conference, Ligon played a recording of a meeting on April 8 in the county jail between Canfield and an undercover law enforcement agent who posed as a hit man. In the recording, Canfield urged that the killing and maiming be done as soon as possible, and for the alleged hit man to "make it look good."

Canfield sought to pay $5,000 for Freyer to be killed and $2,500 for the attack on Ligon, authorities said.

Authorities said Canfield admitted to trying to hire the hit man during an interview with two Texas Rangers on Monday. Sgt. Wende Wakeman, one of the Texas Rangers who spoke with Canfield, said at the news conference the 84-year-old woman was "very cold and not very remorseful."

Ligon rejected any thoughts of sentiment because of her age.

"If you've got the motivation, the means to make it happen, it doesn't matter your age. It only matters what your intent is. The contract already was sealed," he said. "The fact of the matter is the person she was trying to hire was a very robust, young guy that was able to carry out her intentions. Don't get lost in the fact what her age is."

Authorities learned April 1 from a confidential informant of Canfield's desire to hire a hit man, according to court documents. The informant provided a name to Canfield, and she added the man to her visitors' list at the county jail and later set up a meeting.

On a tape of their conversation, she said she had $647,000 as proof she could pay.

"If somebody takes a step to actually meet with a hit man, we take that serious," Ligon said.

The deaths of the Kaufman County prosecutors were among several recent high-profile law enforcement killings, including the shooting earlier this month of a southern West Virginia sheriff and the March slaying of Colorado's prison chief.


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