Rev. Clinton Dobson Murder Trial: Felon convicted in Texas pastor's killing gets death penalty

Steven Lawayne Nelson File, AP Photo/Arlington Police Department

(CBS/AP) FORT WORTH, Texas - A convicted felon was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing a pastor and severely beating the pastor's secretary in their North Texas church last year.

A Fort Worth jury deliberated for more than an hour before deciding the death sentence for 25-year-old Steven Nelson. He was convicted last week in the March 2011 death of the Rev. Clinton Dobson at the NorthPointe Baptist Church in nearby Arlington.

Nelson also beat the church secretary, Judy Elliot, so severely that she suffered memory problems and a broken jaw. He then stole her car and other items.

Jurors had the option of sentencing Nelson to death or life in prison without parole. For a death sentence, jurors had to unanimously agree that Nelson poses a danger to society, that he intended to kill and that there were no mitigating circumstances to diminish his culpability.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Page Simpson called Nelson a "predator" who forced Dobson and Elliott to tie each other up. Blood from both victims was found on a pair of Nelson's shoes, and studs from his belt were found at the church, according to testimony.

Prosecutors presented evidence during sentencing that Nelson's criminal career began when he was a teenager and that he assaulted jailers while in custody. Several jail guards said Nelson broke a jail phone after getting upset from a conversation and that it took three guards to restrain him.

Nelson was charged with assaulting another jailer in October 2011. He is also a suspect in the death of another inmate.

More on Crimesider
Oct. 8, 2012 - Rev. Clinton Dobson Murder: Felon found guilty of capital murder in Texas pastor's suffocation death
March 10, 2011 - Rev. Clinton Dobson Update: Two charged with suffocation murder of Texas pastor
March 7, 2011 - Texas pastor Rev. Clinton Dobson suffocated in deadly robbery, say Arlington police