Pastor's killer goes berserk after death sentence

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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Convicted killer Steven Lawayne Nelson was sentenced to death Tuesday for the brutal suffocation death of an Arlington pastor during a robbery inside the church.

But the end of the two-week trial did not mean the end to havoc wreaked by Nelson: Just minutes after being led quietly from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies, Nelson broke a water sprinkler head in his holding cell, flooding the cell and sending black water infused with fire retardant into Criminal District Court #4.

He could be heard screaming and howling from his cell as court personnel scurried to pick up boxes of evidence before they got wet. The smell permeated the courtroom and deputies quickly evacuated bystanders. Firefighters soon arrived to stop the flow of the water from the sprinkler.

The jury in state District Judge Mike Thomas' court deliberated for about 90 minutes before handing the maximum sentence to Nelson, 25, of Arlington.

Nelson was convicted of capital murder last week in the 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 of the church on March 3, 2011.

Church secretary Judy Elliott was also beaten and left for dead but survived.

Earlier in the day, before the jury began its deliberations, prosecutors Bob Gill and Page Simpson urged jurors to give Nelson the death penalty.

"It's like he wanted to violate the conscience of this community," Gill said during closing arguments Tuesday morning. "If you think he was hell on wheels in the Tarrant County Jail while awaiting trial, think what he'll be like in prison ... with nothing left to lose."

Defense attorneys Bill Ray and Steve Gordon urged jurors to hand down a life sentence, arguing that Nelson was abandoned psychologically as a child and didn't get the help he needed.

"We ask that you spare his life," Gordon said.

Dobson's widow, Laura Dobson, joined Elliott and other friends and family in the courtroom for the jury's decision. Elliott and her father and Dobson's parents addressed Nelson directly by giving victim impact statements after the verdict was announced.

"No one wants to remember you," she told Nelson, "but they will always remember Clint ... I vow to be his voice and carry on his legacy, that good will always trump evil."

Laura Dobson's father, cardiologist Phillip Rozeman from Shreveport, La., told Nelson that the killing of Clint Dobson was "a cosmic collision of good and evil," but he vowed that they would rebuild their lives.

"We know that Clint is in Heaven asking God all the questions he always wanted to ask," he said.

Clint Dobson's parents, Rod and Sharon Dobson, also spoke to Nelson about their son and the good deeds he did for the world.

Sharon Dobson read the epitaph now on her son's grave.

"He was generous of heart, constant of faith and joyful of spirit," she said. "I wish you could have known him."

Nelson's mother and other family members testified on his behalf Monday but did not return to court for the sentencing.

Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084

Twitter: @Dianna Hunt

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