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Second-Degree Verdict for Wife in Grisly Murder

January 13, 1993|RENE LYNCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Omaima Nelson was arrested Dec. 2, 1991, after seeking a friend's help in disposing of her husband's body parts. The friend agreed but called police instead.

Omaima Nelson testified that she had suffered sexual and physical abuse while growing up in Egypt, where she was forced to undergo a circumcision, a mutilation of the female genitalia that is practiced in some parts of the world.

Nelson, who came to the United States in 1986, said the operation left her unable to enjoy sex. She said she found herself in one abusive relationship after another. But after meeting William Nelson in October, 1991, she said she agreed to sex several times a day because she believed that she was in love.

The couple married within days of meeting. Omaima Nelson said it wasn't until their honeymoon visit to his family in the Midwest that she learned of her husband's violent streak.

William Nelson would become enraged if she refused his requests for "kinky" sex that involved bondage and would beat her, she testified. He once punished her by throwing her newfound kitten out the car window.

" 'I paid for you, I'm getting what I paid for,' " Omaima Nelson recalled her husband screaming. Omaima Nelson said her husband raped and beat her several times, including once when she threatened to leave him.

She said William Nelson was sexually assaulting her during the 1991 Thanksgiving weekend when she grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed him repeatedly. She said she then beat him with an iron and other objects until he died, then began dismembering the body. Pawloski told jurors that Omaima Nelson was lying about her claims that she was abused. He told jurors that William Nelson was the victim in the case and that the evidence shows that his ankles had been bound during a struggle moments before his death.

"When you have a case like this, it's hard to walk outside a courtroom and say you're happy, but I'm pleased with the verdict and I believe the family is, too," Pawloski said after the verdicts were announced.

Hooks said some jurors believed Omaima Nelson's claims of abuse, while others did not. Despite the sensational nature of the trial, they tried to focus on the evidence, he said.

"It was really a tough, tough decision. We couldn't come back (with a first-degree murder verdict) because we couldn't find the evidence. It wasn't there," Hooks said. "It took us six days. We worked really hard."

Times staff writer Mark I. Pinsky contributed to this report.

Nelson Chronology

1991

Dec. 1: Police investigating a tip find the remains of William E. Nelson, 56, inside an automobile parked outside his Costa Mesa apartment. Nelson's body has been hacked apart, the pieces wrapped in newspaper and stuffed into a trash bag. More body parts are found inside Nelson's apartment.

Dec. 2: Nelson's Egyptian-born wife, Omaima, is arrested on suspicion of murder.

1992

Feb. 21: Omaima Nelson pleads not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder.

Dec. 10: Nelson testifies that her husband of five weeks physically and sexually abused her. She claims she killed him in self-defense, castrated him out of revenge and boiled his head and hands. Prosecutors said his lower body and torso were skinned. Her attorney argues she suffered a breakdown as a result of abuse that began in childhood and continued during her relationship with her husband.

Dec. 18: Nelson's attorney asks the jury to disregard the victim's mutilation when considering the verdict because "she was in a psychotic state at the time, she wasn't rational."

1993

Jan. 4: Case goes to the jury.

Jan. 12: After six days of deliberation, the jury finds Nelson, 26, guilty of second-degree murder.

Source: Times files

Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times

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