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Micah Louis NELSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Kidnapping
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 16, 1997
Date of birth: November 29, 1975
Victim profile: Virginia Brace (female, 78)
Method of murder: Emptied a fire extinguisher into her mouth and forced a tire iron into her mouth and through the back of her head
Location: Polk County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on March 17, 2000

Florida Supreme Court

opinion SC00-876

DC# 535168
DOB: 11/29/75

Tenth Judicial Circuit, Polk County, Case# 97-6806-CF
Sentencing Judge, Trial: The Honorable J. Michael Hunter
Attorneys, Trial: Robert Trogolo & Julia Williamson – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal: A. Anne Owens – Assistant Public Defender
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: Richard E. Kiley & James V. Viggiano – CCRC-M

Date of Offense:  11/16/97     

Date of Sentence:  03/17/00 

Circumstances of the Offense:

In the early morning hours of 11/17/97, Micah Nelson broke into Virginia Brace’s home through the bathroom window.  Brace, who was 78-years-old, was lying asleep in her bedroom.  Her hearing aid and glasses were removed. 

Upon hearing the intruder, Brace woke up screaming and a struggle ensued between the two.  Nelson sexually assaulted Brace and then forced her into the trunk of her car. 

Nelson drove around in the car for several hours and eventually stopped in an orange grove where the car became stuck in soft sand. 

At 9:30 a.m., heavy equipment operator, Steven Weir, arrived to assist in removing the car from the sand. Weir testified that, as he was pulling the car out, Nelson acted nervous and unusual.  While Weir was hooking up the car to be towed, he felt a thud come from the trunk. Nelson explained that he had a dog back there and turned up the volume of the car radio to drown out the noise. As soon as the car was removed from the sand, Nelson sped off.

Nelson then took Brace to another orange grove where he let her out of the trunk and dragged her 175 feet into the grove.  He then attempted to strangle Grace. When this attempt failed, he emptied a fire extinguisher into her mouth and forced a tire iron into her mouth and through the back of her head. 

On the afternoon of 11/17/97, Joann Lambert noticed Brace’s car parked near her house.  She did not recognize the car and became suspicious later in the evening when the car had not moved.  A local deputy arrived at the car to investigate.  He found Nelson sleeping in the back seat of the car. 

Upon questioning, Nelson claimed to have borrowed the car from a friend.  The deputy’s computer program used to verify Department of Motor Vehicles records was not working, but the deputy did notice an insurance card in the car with the name of Brace on it.  Since Nelson did not have a driver’s license, the Deputy made him leave the car parked and gave him a ride to his sister’s house. 

Later that evening, the deputy heard an announcement over the police radio regarding Brace.  The deputy, along with a sergeant, returned to the vehicle and identified it as belonging to Brace.  Nelson was interrogated by police on November 17th, 18th and 19th. During the final interrogation, Nelson confessed to murdering Brace and showed the police the location of the body. 

Medical examination confirmed Nelson’s statements regarding the tire iron and fire extinguisher.  The examination also revealed that Brace suffered from a crushed vertebra and three broken ribs.  Evidence such as fingerprints, shoe prints, DNA testing of pubic hair found on Brace’s bed and blood stains, were all consistent with Nelson’s guilt.

Trial Summary:

12/10/97          Indicted as follows:

Count I:  First-Degree Murder
Count II:  Kidnapping
Count III:  Burglary of a Structure
Count IV:  Grand Theft Auto

12/19/97          Defendant was charged by Information from Highlands County on the following counts:

Count I:  Burglary of a Conveyance
Count II:  Sexual Battery

12/14/99           Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

12/22/99               Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3 majority

03/17/00           Sentenced as follows:

Count I:  First-Degree murder – Death sentence
Count II:  Kidnapping – Life
Count III:  Burglary of a Structure – Life
Count IV:  Grand Theft Auto – 15 years

Information from Highlands County:

Count I:  Burglary of a conveyance – Life
Count II:  Sexual Battery – Life

Additional Information:

During trial, Nelson claimed to be mentally ill.  He stated that on the day of the murder he suffered from hallucinations and depression. These claims, however, had no evidence to support them and were disregarded by the court.  Several witnesses who encountered Nelson before the murder testified that his behavior was normal.   

Case Information:

On 04/24/00, Nelson filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.  Issues presented were whether error occurred in denying Nelson’s motion to suppress statements and evidence that was involuntary.  Nelson contended that he was coerced into locating Brace’s body through use of the “Christian burial” technique. 

Error was also argued to have occurred in instructing the jury on and finding that Nelson murdered the victim to avoid a lawful arrest, finding that the murder was committed in a cold calculated and premeditated manner without and pretense of moral or legal justification, and allegedly failing to consider and weigh mitigating circumstances. Nelson also contended that the sentence of death was disproportionate in comparison to other capital cases involving mentally disturbed defendants.

The court examined the records and determined that there was substantial evidence to support the conviction of first-degree murder.  The conviction and sentence was affirmed on 10/03/02.  On 07/10/03, the motion for rehearing was denied and a revised opinion reaffirming Nelson’s sentence was substituted in place of the previous opinion. 

On 10/08/03, Nelson filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.  On 12/15/03, the petition was denied.



Micah Louis Nelson at Death Row.



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