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Slain Texas prosecutor and wife buried after bomb threat

A police officer salutes at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas
A police officer salutes at a memorial service for Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia in Sunnyvale, Texas

(Reuters) - Private funeral services were held for a Texas prosecutor and his wife on Friday, despite a bomb threat targeting the church in Wortham where friends, family and law enforcement officials gathered to bid the slain couple a final farewell.

A public memorial was held on Thursday for Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia at the church where they worshipped in Sunnyvale, Texas. They were found shot dead at their home on Saturday, two months after one of McLelland's assistant prosecutors was gunned down near the Kaufman County courthouse.

The threat against the First Baptist Church of Wortham, the eastern Texas town where McLelland grew up, came late on Thursday, said Sergeant Clayton Aldrich of the Freestone County Sheriff's Department.

Someone apparently using a no-contract, pay-as-you-go cellphone called in the threat, making it extremely difficult to trace, Aldrich said.

"Criminals use them ... people who deal narcotics and stuff like that," Aldrich added.

No bomb was found and the funeral went ahead as planned.

The threat heightened tensions following the shootings, which law enforcement officials have characterized as attacks on the criminal justice system.

McLelland 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 on January 31. McLelland had publicly vowed to capture Hasse's killer.

About 300 mourners packed into the small church for the McLellands' funeral. A procession led by McLelland's flag-draped coffin later stretched from the church and town center to the cemetery where the couple was buried after a grave-side service.

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

No arrests have been made for the killings of the McLellands and Hasse, nor have investigators named a suspect or person of interest. Current and former law enforcement officials have speculated a prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas may be responsible.

The threat triggered an exhaustive search of the church on Thursday night by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who employed bomb-sniffing dogs, Aldrich said.

The call was traced to a cellphone tower in Mexia, about seven or eight miles south of Wortham, said Wortham Police Chief Kelly Butler.

"It just basically said there's a bomb at the church where they're having the funeral," Butler said.

The Texas Rangers on Thursday made their second arrest this week of a person suspected of threatening investigators in the McLelland case.

A 52-year-old man was charged with making a terroristic threat against an assistant district attorney via Facebook, the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office said on Friday.

The Rangers arrested a 56-year-old man on the same charge on Tuesday after he was suspected of making a telephone threat against a county official on a tip line for the case.

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Vicki Allen, Philip Barbara and Andre Grenon)

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