Scott Nelson, 55, will be sentenced in a Florida courtroom in the first-degree murder of nanny Jennifer Fulford, 56. Jurors in Orange County found him guilty after he testified that he really did kill her.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET. Nelson faces either death or a life sentence. He was also convicted of kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery.
He robbed the home of Fulford’s employer, kidnapped Fulford, killed her so there wouldn’t be a witness, and abandoned her body in a field in September 2017, said prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick at trial. Fulford was bound in zip ties and had duct tape put from her chin to her eyebrows. She sustained two shallow stab wounds to her back, and five on her chest. Two struck her heart.
Nelson insisted that he didn’t initially intend to kill Fulford. In closing arguments, defense lawyer Robert Larr learned in hard on the concept of intent and said his client only killed her in a panic when she kept screaming.
The defendant expressed no remorse during testimony, however.
“I believe the term is collateral damage,” he said about her. The defendant tried to make her death all about his feud with a federal probation officer, and expressed frustration when the prosecutor kept asking questions about Fulford’s passing. Nelson, a felon under supervised probation, testified he was living and working with the same family, but the government employee created a “situation” that got him kicked out.
He admitted in court that he planned on getting some money and absconding from probation, so he robbed the home of Fulford’s employer. She and her boss had no connection to Nelson or the probation officer.
This remorseless testimony may hurt him at sentencing.
“He’s signing his own death warrant right now,” said criminal defense lawyer Roger P. Foley before the conviction. Nelson’s testimony left him and other panelists at the Law&Crime Network absolutely astonished.
The defense tried and failed to get insanity instructions put in the jury charge. Nonetheless, evidence of mental health and cognitive problems can be presented at sentencing. Take a look back at the pre-trial hearings. Both sides fought over Nelson’s perceived competency to stand trial. The prosecution presented a doctor who testified that the defendant didn’t have a mental illness, according to WFTV in April. Another expert, Dr. George Woods, testified for the defense that neurological testing revealed a “decline in [Nelson’s] ability to use his brain effectively. You see a real decline in his cognition.” This was caused by reported head injuries.
[Mugshot via Orange County Jail]