Defense: Man didn't intend to kill woman held in trunk - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Defense: Man didn't intend to kill woman held in trunk

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EL CAJON, Calif. (CNS) - The beating and kidnapping of a 76-year-old La Mesa woman last year began with a defendant's "unformulated" and "half-baked" idea to commit robbery, but the young man never intended to torture or kill the woman, a defense attorney said today.

Jeffrey Edward Nelson, 20, was "fueled by alcohol" when he drove around town with two others while Natalie Herbst-Vinge was gagged and bound in the trunk of her car, the defendant's attorney, Bart Sheela, told jurors in his opening statement of Nelson's trial.

"It's almost impossible to stop at this point," Sheela told the jury. "She's already in the back of the car."

Nelson abducted the woman for her home last Dec. 8, 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, residential burglary and willful cruelty to an elder, for which he already faces life in prison, plus 15 to 17 years.

Nelson is being tried on charges of attempted murder and torture, for which he could receive another life prison term.

Sheela told jurors that the "yardstick" they must use to judge the case is whether Nelson intended to kill the woman.

To find Nelson guilty, the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that Nelson "had come up with a plan to kill" the 76-year-old woman, Sheela said.

 

But prosecutor Paul Greenwood, in his opening statement, said deputies found a shovel in the car, near where the victim was bound and gagged.

"He demonstrated intent to kill her," said Greenwood, who asked jurors to "hold (the defendant) accountable for his actions in that 26 hours."

Co-defendant Luis Lomeli Osborne, 19, is charged with torture and other counts, but not attempted murder. He is scheduled to stand trial next month.

A judge dismissed charges against Antoinette Baker after a preliminary hearing in February.

At that hearing, Herbst-Vinge testified that Nelson got into her house by asking to use a telephone and choked her from behind.

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

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

During the preliminary hearing, Herbst-Vinge said she prayed 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, authorities said. Herbst-Vinge said that Nelson came to her house the day of the attack, ostensibly to make sure the device was working properly, but left when a male friend of hers dropped by for coffee.

Nelson returned later than night and asked to use the phone, saying his girlfriend broke up with him, the victim 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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