In Death Row interview, pastor’s killer admits to ‘anger problems’

| December 23, 2012

LIVINGSTON — Steven Lawayne Nelson sat calmly in a tiny visiting cage on Texas' Death Row, displaying none of the violent murderer described in psychological evaluations as a man hooked on mayhem.

Nelson savagely beat and suffocated a young pastor at an Arlington church. He was later accused of strangling a mentally ill inmate while in custody in the Tarrant County Jail. In October he ended one of Fort Worth's most publicized trials in years by breaking a water pipe in a holding cell, flooding the courtroom with foul black water.

"I've really got anger problems," Nelson, 25, told The Associated Press in his first interview since arriving on Death Row. "Anything can set me off."

But Nelson takes issue with being labeled a crime addict and maintains he didn't kill anyone. In the two months since arriving on Death Row, he said he has not had any violent episodes and is "trying to maintain my behavior."

His opportunities for misbehavior are considerably more limited now.

Nelson, sentenced in mid-October to die for the robbery-slaying of Arlington pastor Clint Dobson, 28, and the severe beating of a church secretary, is locked up alone in his cell 23 hours a day at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. During the 24th hour, he's alone for recreation.

The isolation is the routine for Death Row inmates in Texas. Misbehavior can only make it more severe, with tighter restrictions on privileges like commissary purchases or radio access.

"It's a lot different here," Nelson acknowledged from his visiting cage.

Bob Gill, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Nelson, predicted that the prisoner's serenity is temporary.

"As soon as he gets any indication of an opportunity, he will be violent again," Gill said. "It's not a tribute to Mr. Nelson if he's not been violent on Death Row. It's a tribute to the procedures they have on Death Row."

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Category: Church Security

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