FORT WORTH -- The Arlington man accused in the slaying of an Arlington pastor is under investigation in the hanging death of another inmate in the Tarrant County Jail, according to a source close to the investigation.Steven Lawayne Nelson, 25, who has also been charged with assaulting a jailer while awaiting trial on a capital murder charge, is one of "a few" inmates being investigated for possible involvement in the death of Jonathan William Holden, 30, according to the source.Holden, who was homeless, was found hanging by a blanket in his cell on the sixth floor of the jail on March 19, two weeks after he was arrested for stealing food from a Marriott hotel and breaking into a car in Westlake, according to authorities."There are definitely suspicious circumstances and some evidence that another inmate may have committed the offense, may have killed him," Chief Deputy Mike Simonds said."The thing that's still in dispute is whether someone reached through the bars and either assisted him, in some kind of assisted suicide, or murdered him, and that is what we're still trying to determine."As to whether Nelson was involved, Simonds said, "I'm not going to confirm or deny any of that."Information about Holden's death had been withheld from public sources of information until the Star-Telegram asked about it on Thursday.The source said Nelson was one of several inmates who might have had access to Holden from a day room in the center of the unit, which has five single-man cells on each side. There were 10 inmates in the unit at the time, officials said.Nelson's attorney, Bill Ray, declined to comment on whether his client is believed to have been involved."I don't know that, and they don't either," he said. "I'm not going to talk about his case."The Tarrant County district attorney's office also declined to comment.The State Commission on Jail Standards is investigating, but an official there said the commission would wait to complete its report until the Tarrant County medical examiner has ruled whether the case is a homicide or suicide.Death reported as suicideThe Tarrant County sheriff's office reported the death to the state jail commission as a suicide without making any notation of an ongoing criminal investigation. The report, filed March 21 with the state, said that inmates inside the tank alerted authorities that "something was wrong," and an officer found Holden hanging by the blanket.The blanket was wrapped around Holden's neck and tied to the bars of the cell door, according to the report. He was found hanging at 10:04 a.m., about 36 minutes after he was last checked by a jailer, the report notes.Holden had been classified as a "suicide prevention inmate" beginning March 6, shortly after he arrived at the jail, but was cleared by a jail doctor on March 16.An inmate who was in the same unit at the time told the Star-Telegram on Thursday that he saw Nelson strangle Holden, whom he called "the kid.""He talked the kid into putting [the blanket] around his neck, and he tied it to the cell door," said the inmate. The Star-Telegram is withholding his identity because he fears reprisals."He was kicking and fighting, but it only lasted for a couple of seconds," he said.Nelson then walked away "and made the comment, 'Damn it, my arms are tired,' and sat back down to watch TV," he said.The tensions had erupted after Holden, who was white, was accused by another inmate of using a racial slur, but the inmate who spoke to the Star-Telegram said that did not happen.Nelson, who is black, reportedly then struck Holden several times with a broomstick. Holden tried to get help by pushing the emergency call button, but no one came, the inmate said. Holden finally then told guards through the intercom, "I'm going to kill myself," but no guard came.The inmate said that Nelson then told Holden that if he wanted to get out of the unit, "you're going to have to act like you're going to kill yourself." That's when he tied the blanket to the cell door."I really couldn't believe that was happening," the inmate said. "It just went from calm and peaceful in there to all hell broke loose. This was all within minutes."The inmate told the Star-Telegram that Holden had obvious mental problems and should never have been put in the unit. He spent most of his time staring out the window at the Tarrant County College campus and fountain."He was brain dead," the inmate said. "You couldn't talk him. He was mumbling. He should have been in an MHMR pod. He should never have been in there."I don't even know if this kid's family knows what happened to him."Holden was pronounced dead at John Peter Smith Hospital on March 20.Slaying at Arlington churchNelson was charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder in the death of the Rev. Clint Dobson and an attack on his assistant, Judy Elliott, during a March 2011 robbery at NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington.Dobson, 28, was suffocated with a plastic bag and Elliott was beaten severely, authorities have reported. Nelson later laughed about the death after seeing a TV report, an acquaintance told police.On Feb. 22, Nelson was also indicted on a charge of assaulting a public servant. He was accused of striking a jailer with his hand on Oct. 24, 2011.Nelson's bail is $750,000. A trial date has not been set.Holden was arrested by Keller police on March 5 in Westlake after a man found him in the front seat of his vehicle, with the driver's window broken, according to Keller police spokeswoman Brenda Slovak.Holden fled but was later arrested. He was also charged with stealing food from a cafeteria in a nearby Marriott on March 4, Slovak said.Police noted that Holden "exhibited unusual behavior," but it was not known if he had mental health problems, Slovak said.Keller provides police service to Westlake.Holden's initial court appearance would have been a few days after he was found dead in March. The charges against him were dismissed after his death without ever going to a grand jury for consideration, prosecutor Heather Davenport said.Staff writer Deanna Boyd contributed to this report.
Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084; Twitter: @DiannaHunt