Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lee mother waits for son's killer to die

Nelson: Appeal has lasted 8 years (news-press.com file photo)


Owens: Killed in north Cape Coral in '95 (news-press.com file photo)


Frustrated family talks about appeals that followed '95 murder
BY PAT GILLESPIE • pgillespie@news-press.com • June 25, 2008

Linda Owens is hoping to outlive her son's killer.

Owens, the mother of Tommy Owens, who was murdered in 1995, has watched as Josh Nelson goes through the second round of appeals on Florida's death row - there since he was sentenced in 1996.

Nelson, 18 at the time, along with Keith Brennan, were convicted of luring Tommy Owens to a remote area of north Cape Coral and beating him with a baseball bat and cutting his throat because they wanted his car. Brennan's appeals have been exhausted and he is serving a life sentence, State Attorney Steve Russell said. He was 16 at the time of the killing.

Attorneys gathered Monday to discuss Nelson's appeal - his attorney is trying to get Nelson's and Brennan's psychological and psychiatric records from five Florida agencies, who have cited public records exemptions and denied records requests.

A judge will review the requests and decide which records to order for release. Nelson's attorney hopes to use the records to save his client's life.

Nelson's most recent appeal has lasted for eight years and has been delayed because of the death of a judge, a turnover in attorneys and the natural course of appeals cases, attorneys said. A judge set another hearing for September.

Tommy Owens' father, Donald - who supports Nelson's execution -died in 2004. Now, Linda Owens is hoping she can see justice for her son's murderer.

"I would like to see Josh Nelson die and I would like to be alive to see it," she said Tuesday. "We do want to get this finished and done."

Attorney Terri Lynn Backhus of Tampa represented Nelson for a time, but said in 2004 she had a conflict with Nelson and asked to be removed from the case. Lee Circuit Judge William Nelson, who presided over the case, died in 2003 and court administrators had to reassign his cases. Two judges have been assigned to Josh Nelson's case since then - Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Corbin and Lee Circuit Judge Lynn Gerald Jr., according to court records.

Gerald addressed Backhus' motion in 2007, three years after she filed it and eight months after Gerald was appointed to the case. Then, in October, Nelson's current attorney, Michael McDonnell of Naples, was appointed to the case.

Backhus said appeals cases are supposed to take a long time - they are designed to be thorough and they don't have time constraints, unlike active criminal cases. Because of budget cuts and active criminal caseloads rising, appeals cases tend to move to the back of the court schedule.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, death row inmates have an average stay of 14 years. Nelson has been there 12.

McDonnell, too, makes no apologies for the delays. He said he is trying to determine whether to raise issues of ineffective assistance of counsel, a common target of appeals, as well as the constitutionality of the death penalty.

"I am the only person between him and the end of his life," McDonnell said. "It's a very serious responsibility."

Russell, who is working on Nelson's appeal, said the process can be drawn out for victims' families.

"The death penalty appellate process can be frustrating for the families and others involved," he said. "Sometimes they go on too long and hopefully we'll get a resolution in this case."

Linda Owens said she doesn't believe Nelson's death will bring justice, but she wants to see the day it happens.

"It's not something you can dwell on or it will eat you up," she said. "The wheels of justice shouldn't move this slow."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love you, Bella.

sam said...

At 18 years old he was just becoming an adult. He will be a completely different person now. I really feel for the victims family but he was so young when this happend. Surely he isn't comparible to Bundy or Dahmer? Live in prison not the death penalty.

Anonymous said...

Uh, hello, Tommy was just starting his life too, and that douchebag took it away from him. Tommy was an innocent victim and an extremely nice kid who wouldn't hurt anyone. Josh Nelson should have gotten a needle ten years ago. What a waste of space in prison.

Anonymous said...

You know what "Anonymous"...
and to the rest of the world who wants to cast a stone..

It's terrible that a life was taken. But it's also terrible that society doesn't step up and do something about these innocent kids being abused and tortured.. only to grow up harboring so much hate inside, then a tragedy happens and people like YOU want to sit up on your high horse and preach about the needle. What about Josh Nelson's parents.. what punishment do they deserve for abusing a child? Douchebag? Oh the intelligence of our community just baffles me. Why don't you do somethin productive instead of posting about something you obviously have no real idea about.

Anonymous said...

i agree 100 percent,take nelson out and beat him to death with a baseball bat,no death penalty.

Anonymous said...

I remember when josh and keith came to my house in NJ after the murder. They stayed at my house because they knew my older brother. They let me drive the car because I was in love with it. When we drove up to my house after driving it.. they told me if I took it without them knowing it, they would cut my throat with a box cutter. A few days later, they were arrested. CUT THEIR THROATS!

Anonymous said...

I don't know Josh outside of prison but I found him on a pen pal site 8 years ago. He is caring n compassionat. I dont know...I know he murdered someone and that is horrible. But it's not one mans place to put another man to death because he killed someone. In gods eyes all murder is sin so why commit a same kind of heinous sin by found as he did?! Let him sit and continue to recover. I'm not saying free him. But don't murder him!!!

Anonymous said...

This is sad after all these years would have thought some thing would be done about this Tommy was a good kid how do I know cause I knew him Tommy was my brothers best friend he was over our house all the time what had happen that day should of never happen but it did it does not matter if you come from a broken home or not you did some thing wrong now you got to pay an eye for an eye

Anonymous said...

KILL HIM. It's called an eye for an eye. He shouldn't be able to sit in prison wasting MY TAX MONEY. There is no rehabilitation for someone like Joshua Nelson. Tommy was a good student, a good person, and he sure didn't deserve to die. Josh Nelson deserves to die. TODAY. Move it along, Florida. Over 300 people on death row is completely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

In 1995, i had the 'pleasure' of being in a cell with josh nelson. I would sit and listen to the 18 year old self-proclaimed 'natural born killer' as he bragged about his crime. There was never a breath of remorse. Always pride. Josh nelson is an evil person and his execution should have taken place years ago. If you look at a picture of him and look into his eyes you will see a man without a soul.

Anonymous said...

This coming from his "cell mate" lol. Get a life you poser.

Anonymous said...

my brother and myself went to school and hung out with josh nelson his parents were sweet i dont no what came over him he cant blame his parents its his fault

Anonymous said...

Don't forget there was actually 2 assailants in this horrible crime. The other was a Keith Brennan.

Anonymous said...

It has since been realized that with evidence and confessions, Keith was an accessory. Yes he did his part and lives with the guilt every single day and mourns on the horrid anniversary. No way are him and Josh anything alike.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how young they were, or that no one told them murder is wrong. Tommy was one of my first friends. Our dads were best friends. There is no excuse for what they did to Tommy. They admitted to it. They bragged about it. They will contribute nothing good to this world. They have earned their deaths.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Keith isn't on Death Row anymore. He hasn't been for nearly 16 years. There is no disputing that what they did was horrible, a precious life was taken way too soon! Keith hasn't bragged about anything he has done. Please don't compare the two.

Lesa Klatka said...

I knew Keith personally from the tone he was about 11! His life was hard. Is that reason to commit such a crime, no, and justice had been served. I met Josh one time and I knew he wasn't right in the head. I don't believe Keith would have done this without josh influence. We had many long talks, he really does have a good heart. I know he regrets what happened, and has remorse. Not like Josh who thought it was his best accomplishment ever. I still can't believe it happened. I feel such sorrow for tommys family. I hope they have found some sort of peace by now.

Anonymous said...

I was friends with Tommy we all went to car club at ft myers beach an I know the whole Brennan family.an for Nelson he wasn't a normal person at all he doesn't ever need to be back in society ever.I don't care what any one says.if it was my son an he committed murder just because he wanted to take his friends car an joy ride in it I would wash my hands from him and stand behind tommys mom.iam sorry if no1 likes my comment but I believe you can give ur children life and take them out of life to.as goes for the Brennan family look up there record no1 should ever raise there kids to be criminals sad to say but it's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Keith was NEVER on death row. He was never sentenced to death. He was only 17 at the time of the murder. Both of them are getting what they deserve. Tommy's mother is right; the wheels of justice shouldn't move this slow.

Anonymous said...

Fuck all the brennan family all scum!

Anonymous said...

Ouch, my balls!