FORT WORTH -- Convicted killer Steven Lawayne Nelson told a deputy sheriff this week that he has multiple personalities that sometimes emerge and cause trouble.Tarrant County Deputy John Casey testified Wednesday that Nelson, 25, appeared to change and became uneasy after surreptitiously pulling a so-called "stun cuff" from his leg while he sat in a courthouse holding cell after being convicted of capital murder on Monday."He appeared to be more agitated, and he said his other personality had kicked in," Casey testified Wednesday. "He asked to see" a mental health specialist.Nelson said the personality was known as "Tanker," and he said he needed medication, Casey said.The deputy's testimony at the end of Wednesday's court session corresponds with previous testimony about Nelson's mental stability. An ex-girlfriend testified that Nelson told her he was schizophrenic; other witnesses said he used names such as Rico and Romeo at different times.Under questioning from defense attorney Steve Gordon, Casey said that Nelson had been receiving medication to help him get through the trial.Nelson was convicted Monday in the March 3, 2011, death of Clint Dobson, 28, pastor of NorthPointe Baptist Church in north Arlington. Dobson was beaten, bound and suffocated with a plastic bag during a robbery. Church secretary Judy Elliott was beaten and left for dead but survived.Ties to inmate's deathThe testimony about Nelson's mental health followed hours of testimony Wednesday linking Nelson to the death of mentally ill inmate Johnathan Holden, 30, who was in a Tarrant County jail cell block with Nelson earlier this year.Another inmate testified that he watched across a commons area as Nelson killed Holden.The Star-Telegram is not identifying the inmate at the request of state District Judge Mike Thomas, who said the inmate feared retaliation.The inmate said Nelson was in the commons area for his one hour of recreation each day when he began poking at Holden with a broom handle. He then lured Holden to the front of the cell door and convinced him to place a blanket around his neck to attract guards with a fake suicide attempt.Instead, Nelson grabbed the blanket and pulled Holden against the bars until he stopped kicking.Nelson then did a "Chuck Berry" celebration dance using a broomstick as an air guitar, the inmate said."I watched the whole thing, from beginning to end," the inmate told jurors. "He was murdered.""Who murdered him?" asked prosecutor Bob Gill."Rico Nelson," the inmate said.The inmate said he is serving a two-year prison term for family violence, and that he and Holden should not have been in the cell block with Nelson and other accused killers.Forensics experts testified that Nelson's DNA was found under Holden's fingernails and that the knots tied in the blanket were done from outside the cell door.Holden's aunt, Sharon Bristow, had been scheduled to testify on Wednesday but said later she was told she wouldn't take the stand because prosecutors didn't want additional media attention.She said she was disappointed that jurors won't learn that her nephew had family members who loved him and tried to help him. Holden's sister, Jennifer Ciravolo, had been waiting in a private area to hear Bristow testify."To the jurors, he's still just an inmate who was there, and to their knowledge, he had nobody who cared," she said. "For us, there's been no closure. We haven't been allowed to grieve. We haven't been allowed to say our good-byes."Jailhouse troublemakerAccording to testimony, Nelson has been a constant troublemaker in jail since he was booked in on March 10, 2011, repeatedly breaking light bulbs, flooding the cells and threatening guards.He has been indicted on a charge that he assaulted a guard, but he has not been charged in Holden's death.Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence for Nelson. If the jury declines that penalty, Nelson will automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole.To sentence him to death, jurors must believe that there is a probability that Nelson would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.Staff writer Mitch Mitchell contributed to this report.Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084Twitter: @DiannaHunt
The family of Johnathan Holden, an inmate strangled March 19 in the Tarrant County Jail, is accepting donations to defray costs of moving his body from a pauper's grave in Cedar Hill Memorial Park to the family plot in Oklahoma. Donations may be made to the "Justice for Johnny" account at any Bank of America.