TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – There is extra security at the Tarrant County Courthouse today. A judge wanted additional protection in his courtroom during the trial of a man accused of killing an Arlington Church pastor and severely beating his elderly assistant last year.
Steven Lawayne Nelson is accused of murdering 28-year-old pastor Clint Dobson inside the NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington. The pastor’s then 69-year-old ministry assistant, Judy Elliott, was beaten so badly that she was hospitalized for weeks after the attack.
During opening statements Monday, Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney prosecutor Page Simpson laid out details of the murder. While prosecutors said they didn’t know how Nelson got into the NorthPointe Church, they know that he struck Pastor Dobson in the head so hard it disabled him.
Prosecutors then detailed how Nelson allegedly bound Dobson with a computer extension cord, and then suffocated him with a trashcan liner.
Police officer Jessie Parrish was the first member of la enforcement to arrive at the scene. From the witness stand she told jurors, “I reached down and lifted the plastic up to see if he [Dobson] was still alive. He was not. His mouth was open and the plastic was sucked into his mouth, as if his last breath was taken into the plastic.”
Defense attorneys had wanted the trial moved outside Tarrant County because of outrage surrounding the case, but their request was denied.
Nelson is charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
NorthPointe is a ‘mission church’ of First Baptist Church of Arlington.
Dobson and Elliott were at the church alone when they were attacked, during the first week of March 2011. Elliott’s husband, John, had a key to the church and was the first to find the crime scene. He testified that he discovered a woman he didn’t know and that the person was barely alive.
“I saw a woman that looked like had been beaten, lying there,” he said. “She responded to me by saying, ‘I don’t know who’s there, but can you please help me?’ I didn’t recognize her voice.”
It wasn’t until after police arrived and attempted to help the victim’s that John Elliott realized the situation. “The officer went over and roused her. I noticed the clothing and then I said, “Oh my God. That’s my wife.”
Judy Elliott suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her with little memory of the incident.
After finding Dobson dead at the scene and Elliott critically injured, police soon discovered that Elliott’s car had been taken and Dobson’s credit cards were missing.
According to police, after the deadly attack credit cards from both Dobson and Elliott were used to purchase gas and retail items at an Arlington shopping mall.
In a four-page affidavit, police state that individuals with Nelson said he laughed and made inappropriate comments while watching local news coverage about the incident.
Initially another person, Anthony Gregory Springs, was also charged in the murder and attack, but the charges against him were later dropped.
During trial events on Monday, Nelson’s defense team did little cross examination of witnesses.
At one point a juror nodded off during testimony. A bailiff woke the juror and testimony resumed.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The state is seeking the death penalty against Nelson.