In less than three months, gunmen have assassinated Brandi Fernandez’s boss, District Attorney Mark McLelland, his wife Cynthia and her colleague Mark Hasse. Fernandez, 42, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since she was appointed interim DA.
At a press conference in a Kaufman County courtroom that included Gov. Rick Perry and an army of law officers, Fernandez didn’t flinch as she talked about taking on a job that would leave some lawyers weak-kneed.
“Granted we’re unnerved a little bit,” she conceded, “but we’re going to stick to our oath.”
Fernandez said that oath includes standing firm in the face of killers who have brazenly challenged the law enforcement community.
“On Monday, every single person showed up,” she said of the district attorney’s staff.
“They’re still dedicated to serving this community. They have a lot of heart. They’re an outstanding team. And even though we are going to miss Mike we’re going to honor Mike by staying dedicated to the job that needs to get done."
Fernandez said McLelland, 63, and his wife Cynthia, 65, were like the department’s mom and dad.
“I still kind of expect him to walk through with a plate of cookies she cooked for us, you know," she said. "I think we all keep halfway expecting that. It doesn’t seem real, but it is.”
Lawyer friends describe Fernandez as calm but tough, a prosecutor who relentlessly pursues convictions for bad actors.
Fernandez is reportedly receiving round-the-clock protection. She will remain interim district attorney for up to 21 days while Perry decides who will complete McLelland’s term.
During the press conference, the governor announced that his office is adding another $100,000 in reward money for information leading to the conviction of the Kaufman County killers, bringing the total to $200,000.
The FBI has also put up billboards throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and new Mexico urging the public to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-877-847-7522 with information about the killings.