D.A. killings in Texas hit home for Birmingham judge

D.A. killings in Texas hit home for Birmingham judge

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Judge Robert Vance, Sr. was killed when he opened up a package containing a bomb in 1989. Source: WBRC video Judge Robert Vance, Sr. was killed when he opened up a package containing a bomb in 1989. Source: WBRC video
Judge Robert Vance, Jr. keeps a photo of his late father above his desk as a reminder of how dangerous it can be to work for the judicial system. Source: WBRC video Judge Robert Vance, Jr. keeps a photo of his late father above his desk as a reminder of how dangerous it can be to work for the judicial system. Source: WBRC video
Walter Leroy Moody of Georgia was charged with Judge Vance's murder and is currently on death row. Walter Leroy Moody of Georgia was charged with Judge Vance's murder and is currently on death row.
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Authorities still have not arrested anyone in the killing of a Texas district attorney and his wife, both murdered Saturday. It's the same county where an assistant D.A. was murdered just two months ago.

Investigators are not talking about a motive, but the killings follow a law enforcement bulletin warning that a white supremacist group might try to attack police or prosecutors.

One Birmingham judge knows first-hand the risks of being a part of the judicial process. His father, Judge Robert Vance, was murdered more than 20 years ago.

"He got a package, it had an address from a fellow judge," said Judge Vance, Jr. "He thought a friend of his at the court was just sending him some materials so he brought in the box, and mom was sitting across the kitchen table from him. He opened it and as soon as he lifted the flap the bomb inside went off. Killed him instantly, seriously injured mom."

Two days later, a Savannah attorney was killed when he received a bomb in the mail. Following that, another bomb was intervened before it was opened at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. And one other bomb was discovered by postal worker. This package was being sent to a NAACP office in Florida.

Authorities say the man responsible was Walter Leroy Moody of Georgia.

"To this day I don't know what triggered it. I don't know what set him off. Why did he decide to wage war against the courts, my dad, the 11th Circuit? I don't know," Judge Vance said.

Today if you walk into Judge Robert Vance, Jr.'s office, you will see a picture of his late father above his desk, a constant reminder of just how dangerous this line of profession can be.

"The people you have to worry about never make the threats. You never know they are coming for you," Vance said.

In the case in Texas, District Attorney Mike McLelland, and his wife Cynthia were shot to death in their home. Their deaths come exactly two months after Mark Hasse, an assistant prosecutor, was gunned down outside the courthouse.

Right now it's unknown if the two cases are linked. So far no arrests have been made in either case.

In Vance's case, Moody was tried, sentenced and is currently on death row. But in Texas, there are still a lot of unknowns and speculation about who could be involved. Judge Vance says based on his experience dealing with something like this, people shouldn't rush to judgment.

"In my dad's case there was all sorts of speculation, everything from drug trafficking, to immigrant Cubans which was an issue at the time. There were many different theories about who could have done this and it just panned out to be a sociopath from Georgia who decided to wage was on the courts," Vance said.

Some of that speculation in the Texas case includes the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. McLelland's office was partially involved in the indictments of 34 of their members. However, the assistant prosecutor who was gunned down January 31 wasn't involved in those cases.

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