By Angela K. Brown
FORT WORTH —
Nelson was “like a predator seeking prey. He walked less than a mile from his home to the church and decided to take that car,” prosecutor Page Simpson told the jury in Fort Worth. “We don’t know how he got into that church, but at some point, a struggle ensues.”
Nelson threatened Dobson with what looked like a gun and hit him after the two struggled, Simpson said. The minister was tied up and died by suffocating from a plastic bag. The church’s 63-year-old secretary was tied up and severely beaten.
Defense attorneys did not make an opening statement.
Several members of NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington testified that they were supposed to meet Dobson on March 3, 2011. But the minister didn’t show up for lunch with one friend and didn’t respond when several people called and texted him all afternoon, according to testimony. The church doors remain locked during weekdays and visitors ring a doorbell to announce their presence, but neither Dobson nor the secretary went to the door when two women arrived separately for their 12:40 p.m. and 1 p.m. appointments. The women told jurors they thought the pastor was busy with last-minute appointments.
The secretary’s husband, John Elliott, testified that he went to the church that afternoon and got inside using a keypad code. Elliott said that when he saw a woman on the floor, he didn’t recognize his wife of about 40 years because her face was beaten so badly.
“She said, ‘I don’t know who’s there, but please help me,’” Elliot testified.
He said his wife doesn’t remember the incident and continues to have short-term memory problems and other issues after suffering a broken jaw and other injuries.
Officer Jesse Parrish testified that after she arrived at the church, she found a man with a plastic bag over his head and lifted it to see if he was alive, but he was not. She said the office where Dobson and secretary Judy Elliott were found was in disarray.
Prosecutors say Nelson drove away in Judy Elliott’s car, pawned Dobson’s laptop, picked up a friend and later bought items using the secretary’s credit cards.
Anthony Gregory Springs, the friend Nelson picked up, was arrested and charged with capital murder, but a grand jury did not indict him. Simpson told jurors that Springs initially was arrested, but police checked cell phone records and determined he was not at the church at the time of the murder.