The four suspects accused in the beating death of Steven Nelson will not face the death penalty if they’re convicted of first-degree murder.
The Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office has decided it will not pursue a death sentence against Kelly B. Schneider and three others. If convicted, they could face life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Schneider, 22, of Nampa, is accused of pushing Nelson, 49, to the ground and then kicking him numerous times with steel-toed boots at the Gott’s Point area of Lake Lowell.
Jayson C. Woods, 28, of Nampa, is accused of helping Schneider as he beat and robbed Nelson of his car, wallet and other possessions. Two others, Kevin R. Tracy, 21, of Nampa, and Daniel A. Henkel, 23, of Wilder, are accused of hiding nearby in case Nelson put up a struggle and Schneider needed more muscle.
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Nelson responded April 29 for a sexual encounter through an advertisement placed on the online website Backpage. The four suspects used the ads to lure unsuspecting people and then robbed them, police said.
Nelson was left naked and without shoes. He had to walk a half-mile to reach a home and get help. He died several hours later at a hospital but was able to provide Canyon County sheriff’s investigators with detailed information that led to the identification of his attackers.
Last month, Schneider and the other three suspects were indicted by a Canyon County grand jury on felony charges of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Schneider was also charged with grand theft, while Woods was charged additionally with accepting the earnings of a prostitute in a case involving his former girlfriend.
Schneider was arraigned on the charges Tuesday. He refused to enter a plea, so District Judge Thomas Ryan entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Ryan set bail at $5 million. Schneider had been held without bail since his arrest May 2. He remains in custody at the Canyon County Jail.
Woods, Tracy and Henkel are scheduled for arraignment Friday. They have filed motions asking for bail to be set. All are being held without bail, Woods and Henkel in the Ada County Jail and Tracy in the Owyhee County Jail.
The use of the grand jury to obtain indictments against the defendants frees prosecutors from having to present evidence in court before trial. Usually, the prosecution has to provide enough evidence at a preliminary hearing to convince a magistrate to bind over a defendant for trial.
Schneider is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 29. The trial is expected to last four weeks. Trial dates for the others are expected to be set at their arraignments.