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Texans honor slain prosecutor and his wife, vow to "soldier on"

The flags fly half staff at Kaufman County Courthouse where slain District Attorney Mike McLelland worked in Kaufman, Texas April 1, 2013. R
The flags fly half staff at Kaufman County Courthouse where slain District Attorney Mike McLelland worked in Kaufman, Texas April 1, 2013. R

By Chris Francescani

SUNNYVALE, Texas (Reuters) - Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were mourned on Thursday by friends, neighbors and law enforcement officers who remembered "two great souls" as the search for their killers intensified and the state's governor offered a $100,000 reward to find the killer.

McLelland, who was the district attorney of Kaufman County, and his wife were found shot to death on Saturday at their home near Forney, 22 miles from Dallas, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down near the Kaufman County Courthouse. McLelland had publicly vowed to capture Hasse's killer.

Law enforcement officials have characterized the killings as attacks on the criminal justice system.

"I don't know what the murderer hoped to accomplish by killing these two great souls," Bruce Bryant, chief investigator for the Kaufman County District Attorney's office, told a gathering of about 1,000 mourners at First Baptist Church of Sunnyvale.

"We will pause only to celebrate the lives of those we have lost, but we will not stop. Mike told me on numerous occasions, 'When things get rough, soldier on.' I promise him we will soldier on," Bryant said, choking back tears.

The McLellands were married 28 years and had two daughters and three sons, one of whom became a Dallas police officer.

Outside the church, Dallas Sheriff's Department patrol cars stretched along the highway, patrol lights flashing.

Inside, a U.S. flag covered Army veteran Mike McLelland's coffin. Beside it was a large quilt that Cynthia McLelland had made. Tulips, roses and carnations adorned the podium where friends and public servants spoke.

No arrests have been made in the execution-style killings, though current and former law enforcement officials have speculated that a prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas may be behind the killings.

Texas Governor Rick Perry told a news conference in Kaufman, about 30 miles east of Dallas, that "the criminals responsible for these murders will be caught, they will be convicted, and they will pay the price."

He offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the killers.

Later, at the memorial in the Sunnyvale suburb of Dallas, Perry told the McLelland children, "Your community stands with you today."

"I'm not just talking about Kaufman County. I'm talking about the millions of people across the state that are standing with you standing with you during this tragedy, sharing your pain in a very real way."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Texas Rangers and other law enforcement officials are investigating the killings.

Hasse was shot and killed on January 31.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)

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