Last Modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 2:03 PM
A Florida man on Wednesday was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the blow that led to the 2009 death of a Longville man.
David Nelson was convicted of manslaughter in March for throwing the punch at The Plantation nightclub that resulted in the death of Chad Heath, 19, on March 28, 2009.
Nelson, of Crestview, Fla., must serve 85 percent of his term before he will be eligible for parole.
Judge Kent Savoie cited a previous conviction of Nelson’s, as well as his unwillingness to confess to the crime, as factors in the length of the sentence.
Savoie said he was prepared to sentence Nelson to 35 years, but reduced it by five years because of the “well-spoken” statement Nelson gave to the court Wednesday.
Nelson apologized to the Heath family, his own family, his children, the court and to the state of Louisiana, but reasserted his innocence.
“I hope one day the Heath family will forgive me, even though I maintain my innocence,” he said.
At the time of the incident, Nelson was on probation for aggravated battery in Florida. Savoie said Wednesday that Nelson had been ordered to pay $4,100 in damages in that case.
Heath’s father, mother and sister addressed the court, as did Nelson’s father and mother and the mother of his children.
Savoie also read through a long list of letters he had received on behalf of both Nelson and Heath.
Kari Heath, Heath’s sister, said, “My family had to live through a real-life horror movie.”
She also said Nelson was not being sentenced for his character, but for his actions.
Heath’s father, Steven Heath, asked Savoie to render the maximum sentence — 40 years.
Both of Nelson’s lawyers testified that he is a man of character whose story, they said, has remained unchanged.
They and his family requested leniency because of his two young children — one of whom was born two months after his arrest.
Nelson’s mother gave an emotional plea to Savoie to keep his sentence short so that he could see his children. She, too, spoke to his character.
Savoie said that while he does not believe Nelson intended to kill Heath, he brought up the previous charge in Florida in answer to whether Nelson is a “good kid.”
Savoie said Nelson had the opportunity to walk away and continue to Florida, where he could have been with his kids.
Posted By: Ashley Thompson On: 5/25/2012
Title: from the mother of his kids
This was way too harsh of a sentence for someone who is innocent. Yes he did maintain his innocence but why would an innocent man say he's guilty just to get a lessor sentence? That to me would be wrong. I hope Judge Savoie will find it in his heart to reconsider his decision. My kids are now angry at the llegal system and no child should feel that way.
Posted By: Tracy On: 5/24/2012
Title: Innocent Man
How could a judge and a jury hear the testimony in this case and not have doubt. I know that the Heath family has lost a loved one and for that I am trully sorry. God knows the truth in this case and some day soon everyone else will too. David Nelson is the most loving person I know and I miss him everyday, and thirty years just dosent seem like any thing close to justice. I use to have faith in the justice system but i will never again. David from your Anunt Tracy I love you to the moon and back and I know your innocent and one day we will prove it.