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Florida Supreme Court upholds death sentence for man convicted in Cape murder

By Staff | Jul 7, 2011
Joshua D. Nelson
Keith M. Brennan

The Supreme Court of Florida has upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of murdering a Cape Coral teenager.
In 1996, a jury found Joshua D. Nelson, who was 19 at the time, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Tommy Owens. The jury recommended the death sentence for him in a 12-0 vote, which the trial court followed.
Nelson was also found guilty of robbery with a deadly weapon. The court sentenced him to 189 months in prison on the robbery conviction.
In 2001, Nelson filed a motion with the trial court requesting that it vacate and set aside his convictions and sentences. He later filed a motion to amend the original, claiming that trial counsel was ineffective and a co-defendant’s sentence subjected his sentence to “collateral attack,” documents state.
The trial court rendered a final order denying the claims.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Florida upheld that order.
State Attorney Stephen B. Russell prosecuted the original case and assisted in handling the post-conviction proceedings, officials reported.
“I am pleased the Supreme Court of Florida upheld the capital convictions in this case. This was a heinous murder,” Russell wrote in a prepared statement. “Justice delayed is justice denied and I am glad we are closer to justice being served for the murder of Tommy Owens.”
In March 1995, Nelson and Keith M. Brennan devised a plan to kill Owens and steal his car. The two lured Owens to a remote street, where they struck Owens several times with a baseball bat before tying his legs and his arms.
Owens pleaded for his life, stating that the two could take his car.
To avoid being caught, Nelson and Brennan decided that they should kill Owens. Brennan tried to kill Owens, who was conscious, by slicing his throat with a box cutter. Owens begged for Nelson to knock him out with the bat.
Nelson did so, and Brennan continued his attack with the box cutter.
Both men struck Owens several times with the bat before dragging Owens’ body to some nearby bushes, where Owens later died.
At the time of the murder, Nelson was 18 and Brennan was 16.
Brennan was found guilty on the same two charges — first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to life in prison on the murder conviction and nearly 13 1 /2 years on the robbery conviction.
According to the documents, Brennan was sentenced to life following the murder conviction because at 16 he was ineligible for the death penalty.