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Attorney seeks transfer of murder defendant to state mental facility

Nelson

The attorney for a Madison man charged with murdering a woman in a Walmart parking lot has requested that his client be transferred from the Morgan County Jail to a state mental health facility so he can receive treatment and be evaluated to determine if he’s mentally competent.

Preston Lamar Nelson, 33, of Madison, is accused of intentionally backing his vehicle over Sherry Sain, 64, who was walking in the parking lot of Walmart Neighborhood Market at 1203 Sixth Ave. S.E. about 8:45 p.m. Aug. 25. Sain, a former Decatur resident, was pinned between Nelson’s vehicle and a parked SUV, police said.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Charles Elliott in September granted a motion by Nelson’s lawyer, Patrick Caver, to have a mental evaluation completed on Nelson. In that motion, Caver said Nelson has a history of mental health issues since his early teenage years.

“At the time of the alleged offense, he has very limited memory of the day and was experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations,” the motion read. “He lacks the ability to understand the trial procedures or consequences of the legal process. It’s in the defense attorney’s opinion that he is unable to assist in his criminal defense.”

According to another motion filed last week, Nelson is suffering from mental health issues and having behavior problems “while incarcerated without the proper medical care for his mental illness.”

Caver said in the Dec. 27 motion that the previously ordered mental evaluation had inconclusive results. He also quoted from a portion of the state therapist’s findings which suggest Nelson did not cooperate in the evaluation effort.

“Given the extremely limited information available to me at this time, I am unable to render any opinions regarding Mr. Nelson’s competency to stand trial or mental state at the time of the alleged offense,” the motion quotes the therapist as reporting. “It is my recommendation that Mr. Nelson be evaluated in an inpatient psychiatric facility through the Alabama Department of Mental Health. This would allow for monitoring of his presentation, behavior, etc., in a structured environment even if he continues to demonstrate limited cooperation.”

Caver’s motion asks that Nelson be transferred to Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa. Elliott had not ruled on the motion as of Wednesday. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 24.

According to police, Nelson had his Mercury Grand Prix in a handicapped space near the front entrance of the store on the day of Sain’s death.

“Nelson sat in his vehicle until Sain walked directly behind his vehicle,” according to an affidavit by Sgt. Michael Burleson. “At that time, Nelson accelerated rapidly, striking Sain. Nelson continued to accelerate until his vehicle struck another vehicle, pinning Sain in between both vehicles.”

Nelson’s car stalled heading north at the store’s Eighth Street exit across from a nearby pharmacy. Police said it “was stopped by a civilian at which point his vehicle became inoperable.”

Police and a witness said Nelson then returned to Sain’s body.

“He got out of the car and came running back up here, kneels down beside (Sain) and takes his hands and rakes her blood all over his face,” Amy Brown said on the night of the incident. “It was unreal, the look in his eyes. His eyes were so huge.”

Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn arrived at the scene and pronounced Sain dead at 9:21 p.m. Aug. 25. Chunn said Sain died of blunt force trauma.

Sain had lived in Huntsville for 15 years, but before then was a longtime resident of Decatur. She was an owner of North Alabama Mortuary Express. She was survived by a daughter, a son, two grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

Decatur police have said there was no known connection between Sain and Nelson before her death.

Nelson is being held in Morgan County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond.

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