Guilty Verdict in Pastor Murder Trial

Jury to determine if convicted killer will get death penalty or life sentence

Monday, Oct 8, 2012  |  Updated 6:39 PM CDT
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Sentencing began Monday for Steven Nelson, who was found guilty of capital murder in the 2011 death of pastor Clint Dobson.

Mola Lenghi, Arlington Reporter

Sentencing began Monday for Steven Nelson, who was found guilty of capital murder in the 2011 death of pastor Clint Dobson.

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Trial Continues for Man Accused of Slaying Pastor

Steven Nelson is accused of killing pastor Clint Dobson inside the NorthPointe Baptist Church in north Arlington back in March 2011.
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A jury found Steven Nelson guilty on Monday morning of capital murder in the 2011 death of an Arlington pastor.

The Rev. Clint Dobson was killed during a robbery at NorthPointe Baptist Church in March 2011. Judy Elliott, the church secretary, was severely beaten.

The prosecution and defense presented closing arguments early Monday morning, and the jury got the case by 10 a.m. Just before 11:30 a.m., the jury announced it had found Nelson guilty of killing Dobson.

The trial is in the punishment phase, during which the jury will determine whether Nelson will spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death.

During closing arguments, prosecutors held up a BB gun, pointed at Nelson and told the jury he used the gun during Dobson's slaying. They called him a "terrorist," a "predator" and a "killer" who took credit cards, a car and Dobson's life. The prosecution stressed that Nelson acted alone.

The defense told the jury that while Nelson was there, he was not alone, and he was only guilty of a lesser charge of aggravated robbery, not murder. They stressed that there was no fingerprint or DNA evidence belonging to Nelson found on the bag used to suffocate Dobson. They said that while it was a "horrible crime that never should have happened," the evidence simply was not there to convict Nelson of murder.

Dobson's family and friends packed the courtroom and let out a collective sigh of relief when the guilty verdict was read.

After a two-hour recess, the court heard from witnesses who gave details about Nelson's history and personality.

The jury heard from a Juvenile Justice Department psychologist who worked with Nelson while he was in the juvenile justice system as a teenager.

She described Nelson as an "interesting" subject because he came from a family who seemed to support him, which she said is not common among the juveniles she typically encounters.

She testified that when she would ask Nelson about crimes he had committed as a teen, he told her he did them because he "was bored."

Police officers who had run-ins with Nelson and jailers who described Nelson as assaultive and disruptive while in jail also testified Monday afternoon.

Nelson testified in his own defense Friday.

He denied killing Dobson at the Arlington church. He said he entered the church and stepped around the bodies of the victims, who were still breathing, to steal a laptop computer.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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