UM pastor on pre-Easter double slayings: ‘Evil is not the last word’

Rev. Keith Head

The Rev. Keith Head’s last Easter before retiring as a United Methodist pastor proved tragically memorable, as he had to address the slayings of a prominent couple in his congregation – a case that has made international news.

Mike McLelland, district attorney of Kaufman County, Texas, and his wife Cynthia, were found shot to death in their home near Forney, Texas, on Saturday.

On Easter, Mr. Head, pastor of First UMC in Terrell, Texas, faced what he called an “elephant in the sanctuary” situation. The crowd – on what was supposed to be the most joyous Sunday of the year – filed in burdened by news that their fellow church members had been killed, execution style.

“I thanked them for coming and being here on Easter morning, and told them they were here as a witness to the fact that evil is not the last word,” Mr. Head said by phone Monday. “It’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the most powerful and brings God’s love as the last word.”

The brazen gunning down in January of Mark Hasse, a prosecutor on McClelland’s staff, has yielded extraordinary attention by law enforcement and the media to the McLellands’ killings, with a connection assumed as the investigation goes forward involving, local, state and federal officers.

The McLellands were active at First UMC Terrell.

“They were very involved in the life of the congregation, attending all kinds of events,” Mr. Head said. “Mike was one of our Sunday school teachers, part of the rotation for teaching the Unity class.”

Mr. Head said many in the area were concerned about the McLellands’ safety after the killing of Mr. Hasse.

“I talked to them personally about that,” Mr. Head said. “(Mike McLelland) spent 23 years in the military. He was a veteran of the Gulf War. I’ve heard him say to people that he had his trusty pistol with him, and he wasn’t worried.”

Mr. Head is in his 39th year of ministry, and retires July 1. Though he has dealt with a range of tragedies, none quite compared to the McLelland killings.

“I’ve never had a double murder in my congregation,” he said.

That it would happen just before Easter heightened the emotion. But there was nothing to do but deal straightforwardly, and theologically, with what happened, Mr. Head added.

“We were able to give a witness to God’s love and grace over against the worst that evil has to offer.”


Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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Thank you, Keith, for faithful witness against the evil that perpetrated this heinous act. The collective grief this breeds can only be healed by trusting God's sustaining love.

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