The father of a Good Samaritan who was slain chasing a purse snatcher made an impassioned plea Wednesday for a judge to send the convicted killer to prison for life.
"I die over and over every day when I get up," said Roy Nelson Sr., describing the torment he has suffered since the January, 1984, shooting death of his son, Ronnie, 26.
Lengthy court delays that have dragged the case out over 21 months contributed to the breakup of his 38-year marriage, the 63-year-old Nelson told Van Nuys Superior Court Judge James A. Albracht at the sentencing hearing.
"Our once happy home has become a place of sadness and tragedy," Nelson said.
Nelson urged Albracht to sentence John Wayne Henderson, 19, to the maximum of 15 years to life for second-degree murder and said he hopes the state parole board will refuse Henderson parole at each opportunity.
Henderson pleaded guilty to the reduced charge in July, after his trial on a first-degree murder charge ended in a hung jury in December.
Tells of Further Delay
Albracht, acknowledging the cumbersome nature of the criminal justice system, told Nelson that there will be another delay before the file is closed.
Because Henderson was a juvenile at the time of the slaying, the judge, by law, cannot sentence him until he has been evaluated by the California Youth Authority for possible placement in a rehabilitation facility, rather than state prison. The report is due by Nov. 20, at which time Albracht will decide between prison and the CYA.
The younger Nelson was gunned down in an alley behind a Van Nuys supermarket as he chased Henderson, who had robbed an elderly woman at gunpoint and fled with her purse. The only evidence found at the scene was a high school athletic jacket that the assailant dropped as he fled.
Police traced the jacket to Henderson's hometown in Texas. Henderson, who had been visiting friends in Van Nuys at the time of the shooting, testified during the trial that a friend who looks remarkably similar had borrowed his jacket that day and committed the crimes.
Trial Ends in Deadlock
After the trial ended in a 6-6 jury deadlock, the prosecutor commissioned a follow-up investigation, which uncovered a key witness in Texas to whom Henderson had confessed his involvement. Faced with that testimony, Henderson opted to plead guilty to the reduced charge rather than face a second trial.
Glaring at Henderson in the courtroom Wednesday, the senior Nelson said,
"John Wayne Henderson, you not only murdered my son, you have destroyed a family . . . .
"Our grandchildren are too young to understand. They keep asking, 'Where is Uncle Ronnie?' We try to explain to them that he has gone on a long, peaceful journey."