Steven Lawayne Nelson Sentenced to Death for the Murder of an Arlington Preacher

Categories: Crime

steven nelson.jpg
Tarrant County Sheriff's Office
Steven Lawayne Nelson, photographed in a Tarrant County jail, following a fistfight with deputies

Update: Steven Lawayne Nelson, who was just handed a death sentence in the suffocation of an Arlington preacher, has flooded his holding cell and the courtroom, according to Star-Telegram reporter Dianna Hunt's Twitter feed. She said he could be heard screaming as water began seeping into the courtroom.

Original item: Jurors handed a death sentence to a man accused of suffocating an Arlington preacher Tuesday. Steven Lawayne Nelson's defense attorneys did exactly what they were paid to: Namely, they valiantly attempted to sow doubt where they could in the prosecution's otherwise damning narrative, which depicted a man who was as dangerous in prison as he was on the outside.

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Nelson was found guilty last week in the capital murder of NorthPointe Baptist's Clinton Dobson, 28, and the severe beating of his assistant Judy Elliott during a robbery. To secure his death sentence, prosecutors brought out extensive evidence indicating Dobson wasn't the only man Nelson has ever killed. Though no charges have been filed, prosecutors and investigators with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office believe Nelson is responsible for the death of inmate Jonathan Holden, 30, as he awaited trial. Holden was a paranoid schizophrenic who'd been arrested after wandering around the Trophy Club/Westlake area in March. It was cold that night, so he broke into a car and wrapped himself in a jacket he found inside. The car's owner called the cops, and Holden was picked up a short time after. He ended up housed in the same tank as Nelson.

Nelson's defense attorneys, Billy Ray and Steve Gordon, worked to invoke the shadow of doubt surrounding Holden's death in the jurors' minds. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, they brought in a forensic pathologist from Minnesota named John Plunkett, who seemed to theorize that Holden's death was at most assisted suicide.

"He must have been an active participant for this to have occurred," Plunkett testified under questioning by the defense. "I would say this is probably a suicide."

On cross examination, prosecutor Page Simpson asked whether Plunkett was familiar with the testimony of an inmate housed in a cell directly across from Holden's when he died. The inmate, whom we've been asked not to identify for fear of reprisals, said he watched Nelson strangle Holden with a blanket.

Or, we might add, was Plunkett familiar with the testimony of a forensics expert who found Nelson's DNA beneath Holden's fingernails?

At the end, the jury decided to put an end to Nelson's murderous life. Now that the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office has won this battle, we wonder whether they will prosecute him for the death of Holden. We reached out to the district attorney's press officer, and we'll let you know when we hear back from her.

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This guy makes Charlie Manson look like a choirboy. I don't condone state-sponsored death, especially in a state as bass-ackwards right wing as Texas, but this maniac murderer makes me understand why some people do.

scottindallas topcommenter

My anti Death Penalty bona fides are well established (as I know you all hang on my every word--jokes, jokes)   But, perhaps a good ol' death by police beating might be good for this guy.  Sadly, that too would be too expensive.  It's people like this that really make my argument tough. 


What I rest on is that someone like this should be studied, his brain scanned and he made a guinea pig.  Perhaps it will teach us to deal with others with similar pathologies.  As is, I would support heavy Thorzine treatment to make this guy a drooling, shuffling cypher. 


Death is too good for this animal...I say let him whittle his days out in solitary with no outside contact..


Now he's flooding the holding cell behind the courtroom accoeding the the DA's twitter


Why do we, the law abiding citizens, have to learn and deal with a murderous killer like this?  The criminals are the ones who should learn right from wrong and how to function in a civilized world.  If they cannot like this guy, they should be removed and executed.


Anti death penalty people are always so concerned about the murderous criminal and what happens to them.  How about worrying about their innocent victims?  In this case a minister that would have probably helped many others and his assistant.  Their families will be affected for the rest of their lives.  The anti death penalty people should be concerned more about the victims and quit making excuses for the murderer.


Remember Kenneth Macduff?  He was convicted of a double murder, was sentenced to death but was not executed due to the moratorium on the death penalty, was released on parole, then proceeded to kill several more people before he was caught again and finally executed.  If he had been executed after his first 2 murders, several more people would NOT have been murdered.

scottindallas topcommenter

 @WatchingSouthDetroit I never expressed concern for the murderer.  I agree that appealing to others to sympathize with murderers is a hard sell, and one I've never made.  But, to ask why we should want to study the psychology is willful ignorance--I suspect that's something you embrace, perhaps consciously.  But, the fact is that that pathology is too common (if still, fortunately rare)  and learning about these type people might help us prevent this violent behavior from manifesting itself. 

Now, McDuff was released due to financial constraints, as our use of the death penalty is fiscally profligate.  For every man we put to death we could have locked him and five others up for life.  But, budgets are tight and vindictive dimwits like you demand vengeance, no matter the cost.  So, people like McDuff get released, for your staged shows of "justice."

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