Attempting to free up time for his office to work on two high-profile murder trials set for this summer, District Attorney John Terrill plans to contract with a retired prosecutor to act as a “special prosecuting attorney” over the coming weeks.

Terrill told Erath County commissioners that he plans to use $8,000 already set aside in the county budget to hire retired Eastland County prosecutor William C. Dowell to assist with the “run of the mill kind of stuff.”

Dowell will handle, for example, probation cases, revocations, pre-trial hearings, and guilty pleas, Terrill said.

“We’re primarily asking him to handle his (Assistant District Attorney Jason Cashon’s) day-to-day work,” Terrill said, while his office prepares for the murder trials.

The two trials include:

Joseph Scott Hatley, who is accused of being involved in the “cold case” murder of a Stephenville woman in 1987.

Hatley’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 11.

Cody Ryne Roberson, a 17-year-old who was indicted for allegedly beating his mother to death with an aluminum baseball bat.

Roberson’s trial is set to begin on Aug. 13.

“The biggest issue right now is the docket to get these major litigation cases out,” Terrill said.

Meanwhile, County Judge Tab Thompson reiterated that plans are being made for commissioners to address overcrowding and other problems at the Erath County Jail.

Thompson said commissioners plan on holding a meeting soon to talk solely about the jail.

In addition, Thompson said, commissioners plan on touring newly built or expanded jail facilities that are in “close proximity” to Erath County before making a decision on how to best move forward.

“We’ll take a look at some of those facilities,” Thompson said.

Thompson also said commissioners plan on having Weldon Wilson, who heads the county’s Pre-Trial Diversion Program, come soon and address the group.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.