Best Criminal Conviction (2011)

Grady Nelson

There's a simple equation to explain which criminal cases touch our emotional nerve: The more heinous the crime, the sweeter the justice. By that measure, the conviction handed to Grady Nelson last December stands as one of the most gratifying in Magic City history — if only because his crime, and the years of warning signs leading up to it, were so horrific. Back in 1991, Nelson was convicted of brutally raping a 7-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood, yet he earned only ten years of probation. Soon thereafter, he was hit with an eight-year term for cocaine possession — but served only two years. Then in 2000, despite all of that gruesome history, Miami-Dade's Human Services Department hired him as a social worker's aide. In the next four years, everyone from the police to the State Attorney's Office to the Department of Children and Families received reports that Nelson was sexually assaulting the children of his wife, Angelina Marcel Martinez. On January 6, 2005 — hours after Martinez obtained a protective order against her husband — Nelson entered her home, again sexually assaulted both of her children, and then fatally stabbed her more than 60 times, leaving her with a slashed throat and a knife sticking out of her head. He also stabbed her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, though both survived. Nelson's first court hearing in 2009 ended with a mistrial. Would he again escape punishment? Not this time. Last July, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder. In December, he was sentenced to life behind bars. Sweet justice? You bet.


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