FORT WORTH -- The Rev. Clint Dobson was beaten, bound and suffocated with a plastic bag in his Arlington church office during a robbery gone awry, a Tarrant County prosecutor told jurors Monday in the capital murder trial of his accused killer.Steven Lawayne Nelson, 25, was drawn to the church because of a car parked outside, prosecutor Page Simpson said during her opening statement."This defendant likes cars, and he decided he wanted a car," Simpson said. "Like a predator seeking his prey, he started walking."The car, a Mitsubishi Galant, belonged to Dobson's assistant, Judy Elliott, who was beaten and left for dead during the attack on March 3, 2011, at the NorthPointe Baptist Church.Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Nelson.He has also been accused of assaulting a Tarrant County jailer and is a suspect in the hanging death of a mentally ill jail inmate. At the defendant's table on Monday, Nelson wore shackles, an unusual precaution even for a capital murder defendant.State District Judge Mike Thomas allowed Nelson to remain seated while jurors entered and left the courtroom so that they would not see the chains on his arms, waist and ankles. Extra sheriff's deputies stood nearby.Defense attorneys Bill Ray and Steve Gordon declined to make opening statements on Monday.Dozens of people attended the trial, including more than 20 from NorthPointe and its parent church, First Baptist Church of Arlington.Simpson, who is trying the case with prosecutor Bob Gill, told jurors that Nelson stole items from Dobson, 28, and Elliott, including her credit cards, and then drove her Galant while on a shopping spree to buy jewelry and expensive Nike Jordan Air Max shoes.The crime was discovered, witnesses testified, after they became worried when for hours they got no response to phone calls to the church office.Finding the victimsElliott's husband, John Elliott, said he finally went to the church.He said he found a woman so severely beaten that he didn't realize it was his wife."She said, 'I don't know who's there but could you please help me?'" he testified.He said he left quickly to call 911 and realized who she was only after he went back inside with a police officer."Oh, my God, that's my wife," he said.John Elliott said his wife's jaw was broken in five places. She still has a mesh screen holding her face together, and has short-term memory loss and balance problems. She doesn't remember the attack, he said."It's going to be long-term," he said.Stolen credit cardsTwo men, one identified as Nelson, were caught on surveillance video using Judy Elliott's credit cards to buy jewelry and the shoes at The Parks at Arlington mall.Receipts for about $400 worth of jewelry and the shoes were later found at a townhome where Nelson's mother lived, about a mile from NorthPointe church.At one point, Thomas briefly stopped testimony after a juror nodded off while listening to crime scene evidence. The same juror's eyes closed several times later in the afternoon.The nine men and five women on the jury were selected after six weeks of questioning. Two will be alternates.Testimony is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084; Twitter: @DiannaHunt