BY KEN LITTLE
A man who shot his brother to death in 2010 entered a guilty plea Friday in Greene County Criminal Court to a count of voluntary manslaughter.
Richard Kenneth Nelson, 60, of Shelton Mission Road, was sentenced by Third Judicial District Criminal Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. to six years in prison at a 60 percent release eligibility, meaning he must serve nearly four years before becoming eligible for parole consideration.
Nelson had been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting on July 1, 2010, of David Ray Nelson, 50.
Prosecutors agreed to the plea after investigating sheriff's Detective Lt. Jeff Morgan and Nelson's elderly parents gave their approval to the plea.
Nelson only has a few traffic violations on his record, and the standard sentence for voluntary manslaughter under those circumstances usually includes a 30 percent release eligibility.
If he had been convicted of second-degree murder, he would have had to serve a sentence of between 15 and 25 years at 100 percent time, Dugger said.
Had Nelson been tried on the second-degree murder charge, a jury would have had the option of considering the voluntary manslaughter count.
If he was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter, the sentence would have likely carried a 30 percent release eligibility and less time served for the crime, Assistant District Attorney General Ritchie Collins said.
Collins said the shooting stemmed from "a fight between brothers."
"This could very well be a life sentence given his health," Judge Dugger said.
"He's in very poor health. Given his state of health and given his criminal record and given the wishes of the family, the deal was acceptable. He's going to serve more time under this agreement," Collins noted after sentencing.
Nelson's poor health "had a lot to do with the event that led to the shooting of his brother," Collins said.
DETAILS OF SHOOTING
On the night of July 1, 2010, deputies were called to the Shelton Mission Road home Nelson shared with his brother in a forested area in the Greystone community.
A report filed by Morgan said the two brothers argued outside the home and Richard Nelson shot David Nelson with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Deputy Mike Shipley said in a report that the disagreement was over a drop cord.
Richard Nelson told David Nelson "to get his stuff and leave [and] the victim went into the house and started throwing stuff around," the report said.
Richard Nelson went inside the house to stop his brother, and the pair got into "a physical altercation," the report said.
Nelson told deputies that he suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease "and he was losing his breath, and that his brother would get the best of him, so he shot the victim with a 12-gauge shotgun in the stomach," the report said.
David Nelson died at the scene.
Nelson has been free on bond since shortly after the shooting.
ADMITS GUILT AT PLEA
Nelson, wearing jeans and with his gray hair in a ponytail, appeared Friday in court with his court-appointed lawyer, Assistant District Public Defender Mike Walcher.
He answered one of Dugger's questions by responding that the shooting was "an accident."
Under further questioning, Nelson admitted his guilt.
Judge Dugger asked Nelson if he believed the plea was in his best interest.
"I'd say so, for looking at 15 to 20 years. I'll take it," he said.
Dugger asked Nelson if Walcher did everything he wanted him to do.
"Everything but get me out," he replied.
Walcher said he went over the plea agreement with Nelson "numerous times."
Dugger cautioned Nelson that, as a convicted felon, he will not be allowed to own any firearms when he is released from prison.
"That's hard. I'm a mountain man," Nelson said.
"You'll have to get you a bow and arrow," Dugger told him.