Judge Robert Morin sentenced Samuel Nelson to 13 years and 4 months in prison Friday for the death of his friend, Darnell Howard, last year.
“I myself wish things would’ve went a different way than they did,” Nelson said. The fact that he knew their family made it more difficult, Nelson said.
“I’ve known them for years,” Nelson said. “Before I even knew what drugs was.”
According to evidence in the case, Nelson was Howard was killed after he and another man robbed Nelson of about $50. When Nelson saw Howard across the street near 30th Street Southeast and Naylor Road Southeast at about 8 p.m. Oct. 2, 2012, he was upset and high on PCP.
Armed with a butcher’s knife, he crossed the street and confronted Howard. When the argument turned physical, Nelson stabbed his friend and robber several times. Howard was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital Center 40 minutes later.
Police found Nelson a few blocks away. At the Homicide Branch, Nelson confessed to stabbing Howard, according to court records.
Judge Morin said it was hard to grasp how the stabbing had come about.
He said, “I don’t know how this incident among friends escalated to the point that it did. But both families have to live with the consequences.”
Nelson’s attorney, Dana Page, said Nelson has become a kinder, gentler person in jail, where he no longer has access to illegal drugs. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January – a plea agreement that Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Dillon said accounted for Howard having robbed Nelson, and for the fact that Nelson was under the influence of drugs at the time and mistakenly thought Howard was going to harm him. Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of 15 years for the charge.
Still, Dillon said, “I don’t think that’s enough to simply attribute that to ‘oh, he was high on PCP.”
Nelson sought out Howard to seek revenge, Dillon said.
Howard’s brother, Lavon, spoke at the sentencing.
“I’m still going through a lot right now,” he said.
In a victim impact statement, Howard’s aunt, Anna Howard, said her nephew was “like the glue to the family.” His teenage daughter D’Aisa included a poem she wrote about his death.
“When Samuel Nelson took Darnell Howard, he took the life of a father, a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle and a good spirited man,” Howard’s wife, Theresa, wrote. “Darnell was my best friend.”
Sentencing documents are below: