Self-described 'monster' convicted of suffocating Arlington pastor

Posted Monday, Oct. 08, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH - A self-described "monster" was convicted Monday of capital murder for beating an Arlington pastor and suffocating him with a plastic bag during a robbery.

A jury in state District Judge Mike Thomas' court deliberated a little over an hour before finding Steven Lawayne Nelson, 25, guilty of killing Clint Dobson, 28, in his office at NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington while stealing items from Dobson and church secretary Judy Elliott.

Elliott was badly beaten but survived.

Dobson’s widow, Laura, sat quietly with relatives and members of the church as the verdict was read.

Nelson, too, sat quietly. He was surrounded by sheriff’s deputies and was allowed to remain seated so jurors would not see the shackles he has worn in court each day for more than week.

The punishment phase of the trial began Monday afternoon. Jurors must now decide whether to sentence Nelson to death or to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors detailed Nelson’s many criminal offenses, including the trouble he has created in the Tarrant County Jail while awaiting trial.

Several jailers testifed that Nelson broke light bulbs, flooded his cell, threatened jailers and flew into a rage during a visit from an unknown outsider. He was found with a shank — a knifelike device — fashioned from a plastic spoon, and a bag of narcotics was found in his cell, jailers testified.

Also, Nelson has been charged with assaulting a jailer and is a suspect in the hanging death of a mentally ill jail inmate. Jurors have yet to hear about those cases.

Mary Kelleher, a psychologist and juvenile services supervisor, testified that Nelson’s criminal history in Texas dates to 2000 when he was 13.

She said she asked Nelson why he kept getting into trouble for burglary, car theft, trespassing, aggravated assault and running away.

“He said he was bored,” Kelleher said.

Defense attorney Ray took issue with Kelleher’s conclusion that Nelson had strong family support, and brought out during questioning that Nelson committed his first crime at age 3, when he set his mother’s bed on fire.

Nelson got in trouble with juvenile authorities in Oklahoma at age 6, and was eventually committed to more than 100 days in Oklahoma juvenile detention, Ray said during questioing.

In 2001, at the age of 14, Nelson was committed to the Texas Youth Commission, Kelleher testified. Nelson’s father was in prison during most of Nelson’s young life and was a negative influence on his son, she said.

Under questioning from prosecutors, however, Kelleher testified that her study of Nelson’s home life concluded that his mother had tried to control her son. Neither of his two siblings had problems, she said.

“I think the mother did the best she could,” Keller said. “She was very frustrated. I don’t think she knew what else to do with him.”

Testimony is expected to take several days.

Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084

Twitter: @DiannaHunt

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