FORT WORTH — Convicted killer Steven Nelson sat chained hand and foot, but extra bailiffs surrounded him anyway as the judge pronounced sentence his in a Fort Worth courtroom Tuesday.
"Your punishment is assessed at death by the jury," Judge Mike Thomas told Nelson, who showed no emotion.
Steven Lawayne Nelson was sentenced to death by lethal injection for killing Rev. Clint Dobson at Arlington's NorthPointe Baptist Church last year.
It took jurors less than two hours to decide death, which was about the same amount of time it took on October 8 to find him guilty of murdering Dobson. The jury heard more than two weeks of testimony.
Nelson was convicted of capital murder for killing Dobson by suffocating him with a bag from a trashcan after beating the pastor. Dobson's secretary, Judy Elliott, was also badly beaten in the incident, but survived.
Nelson then sold Dobson's computer for $150, and bought clothes and jewelry with stolen credit cards.
"A cosmic collision of good and evil," said Dobson's father-in-law, Phillip Rozeman. "That's what this was."
During his victim impact statement, he finally said what other witnesses couldn't as he spoke directly to Steven Nelson.
"It's hard for me to imagine that while my daughter is helping special needs children in Arlington, you're killing her husband," he told Nelson.
Defense attorneys called Nelson's mother and other members of his family to testify to a childhood troubled by attention deficit disorder and dysfunctional relationships.
Prosecutors said Nelson will always be a threat, and to spare him would condemn someone else. They presented evidence that while awaiting trial in the Tarrant County Jail, Nelson strangled another inmate.
Laura Dobson, Clint Dobson's widow, thanked the jurors and the court before she took the stand and looked at the man who made her a widow. And he looked back.
"Until this past week, I didn't realize the depth of your anger and hate," Laura Dobson told him. "No one wants to support pure evil. So ultimately, no one wants to support you."
She told Nelson he'll be forgotten, but that she'll see her husband in heaven.
"Until that day, I vow to be his voice to carry on his legacy and to be a living reminder that good will always triumph over evil," she said.
Clint Dobson's mom had the final words. Sharon Dobson read the epitaph on her son's headstone.
"He was generous of heart, constant of faith, and joyful of spirit," the mother said. "I wish you could have known him."
After the jury left, members of Dobson's family and the church congregation hugged and commiserated.
Meanwhile, Nelson caused more trouble.
After jurors left the courtroom, bailiffs led Nelson back to his holding cell. A short time later, a loud hissing sound was heard, and dark water seeped from beneath the cell door into the courtroom. Officials said Nelson managed to trigger the sprinkler system. Fire fighters arrived a short time later.
Clint Dobson's loved ones would like to turn the focus to his legacy. Two funds have been established in his name. To find links to both memorial funds and leave a message for the family, visit this Facebook page. You can go straight to the memorial fund pages here and here.
The First Baptist Church of Arlington and Northpointe Baptist Church released a joint statement Tuesday after the sentencing that can be read in its entirety below.
STATEMENT FROM FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF ARLINGTON AND NORTHPOINTE BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE CLINT DOBSON MURDER TRIAL
On March 3, 2011, two churches and two families experienced a tragedy that has altered all of our lives. We will never forget the trauma and the shock of that fateful day.
On the one hand, we have all continued to live and progress through life. Both the Dobson and Elliott families have received outpourings of love and support. There is no question that healing has occurred and that God's grace has been sufficient. Our churches have been blessed by an incredible expression of concern as this community has reached out to us in tangible ways.
We have all waited for this day. We have prayed for the people who are charged with the responsibility for the wheels of justice in our society. We have asked God for the truth to be known and for justice to be served. As the Bible teaches us, God has placed the civil authority in our midst so that innocent people can live in freedom without fear and so that guilty offenders can be appropriately punished.
We are convinced that we have seen that process demonstrated in the past 17 months. We are grateful for police officers, crime investigators and legal specialists who have performed a great service for our community. This trial has been conducted with an incredible level of professionalism and integrity. A jury comprised of members from our community has reached a verdict based on evidence presented in a court of law. We now can confidently say that justice has been served and we will support the decision of this court.
We also want our community to know that Clint Dobson did not die in vain. His life was given
courageously in service to the Lord Jesus Christ. The crown of life will be his forever in eternity. The
testimony of his life continues to bear fruit in the lives of countless people who continue to benefit from his commitment to Christ.
We now can move forward to a greater level of healing since this part of the saga is behind us. We will never tire of proclaiming the life-giving message of hope that we know to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the message for which Clint gave his life. It is the message that offers light in the face of the darkness that caused this tragedy in the first place.
Both families and both churches are resilient and resolute in our hope. Our God is sufficient for all of life's circumstances and the good news of Jesus Christ will not be overwhelmed by evil. In fact, this good news is the answer for the ills of humanity and we will be faithful to share it with everyone until our Lord returns and His creation is redeemed, restored and truly reflects His glory.
-Dr. Dennis R. Wiles, Pastor, FBC Arlington