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Archive for Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Judge gives death sentence to killer

March 12, 2002

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— A federal judge on Monday imposed the death penalty against a man who set off one of the largest manhunts in Kansas City history after kidnapping a 10-year-old girl from in front of her home.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan approved a November 2001 jury decision to sentence Keith D. Nelson to death for kidnapping and killing Pamela Butler on Oct. 12, 1999. Nelson pleaded guilty last November.

As Gaitan read the death sentence, Nelson criticized the victim's family, which received cash donations from around the city after the kidnapping.

"The family sits there all sad," he said. "They were bragging about their sister being dead to get the money. They weren't sad. They were happy to get the money."

Nelson also told the judge he was not afraid of the death penalty.

Susan Hunt, Nelson's attorney, said Nelson's behavior in court Monday would make it difficult for him in future court appearances. Hunt also said she would appeal the sentence in the next 10 days.

Pamela Butler's mother, Cheri West, said she was buoyed by the sentence.

"A person that rotten does not need to live in our society," West said outside the courthouse. "Children out here should not have to be afraid of people like this."

If appeals to the sentence are unsuccessful, Nelson would be executed by chemical injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. No date has been set.

Nelson, 27, of Kansas City, admitted grabbing the girl from outside her Kansas City, Kan., home while she was rollerblading and driving her to the western Missouri town of Grain Valley, where she was strangled with speaker wire. In return for his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a second count alleging that he sexually assaulted the girl.

On Nov. 28, 2001, the jury of eight women and four men spent about two hours deliberating on their only two choices  death by chemical injection or life in prison  before returning to announce their unanimous decision.

Gaitan could not change the jury's verdict.

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