Trial begins for man accused of kidnapping La Mesa grandmother - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Trial begins for man accused of kidnapping, beating La Mesa grandmother

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EL CAJON, Calif. (CBS 8/CNS) -- Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday in the trial of a young man charged with attempted murder and torture in the beating and kidnapping of a 76-year-old La Mesa woman a year ago.

Jeffrey Edward Nelson, 20, abducted Natalie Herbst-Vinge from her home last December, binding her with duct tape and keeping her imprisoned in the trunk of her car without food or water for 26 hours, authorities said.

Before trial, Nelson pleaded guilty to 10 counts, including assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury, residential burglary and willful cruelty to an elder. He faces life in prison, plus 15 to 17 years on those charges alone if convicted.

Nelson's co-defendant, Luis Lomeli Osborne, 19, is charged with torture and other counts, but not attempted murder. He is expected to go on trial next month.

At the defendants' preliminary hearing in February, Herbst-Vinge testified that Nelson got into her house last Dec. 8 by asking to use a telephone and then started to choke her from behind.

She was punched and threatened during her ordeal, according to prosecutors, and was freed 26 hours later when a sheriff's deputy pulled the vehicle over for a traffic violation.

A photograph displayed at the hearing showed the victim's eyes swollen shut, her chin severely bruised and numerous other facial injuries.

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Lantz Lewis dismissed attempted murder and torture charges against the two young men and threw out all charges against a third defendant, Antoinette Baker.

In March, however, prosecutor Paul Greenwood added a conspiracy count and refiled the torture charge against Nelson and Osborne. He also refiled the attempted murder count against Nelson.

In a subsequent hearing in May, Judge Allen Preckel dismissed the conspiracy count against each defendant but upheld the torture and attempted murder charges.

In her preliminary hearing testimony, Herbst-Vinge said she prayed during her ordeal that God would either save her or let her die.

Nelson sold the victim a vacuum cleaner about a month and a half before the attack. Herbst-Vinge said that he came to her house the day of the kidnapping, ostensibly to make sure the device was operating correctly, but left when a male friend of hers dropped by for coffee.

He returned later that night and asked to use the phone, saying his girlfriend broke up with him, she said.

The prosecution alleges that Nelson picked up Osborne and Baker at some point and drove with the victim in the trunk to Ocean Beach, where she was punched by the defendants.

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