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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Frontier Justice

4-19-2003 California:
DANIEL MARK DRIVER, 35, HAD JUST TAKEN HIS SEAT in a rural California courtroom for a hearing on charges that he had sexually molested four boys when Ellie Nesler, the 40-year-old mother of one of the victims, quietly walked up behind him. According to police, she pulled out a small-caliber pistol and fired five shots into his head.

The fatal shooting quickly plunged the tiny gold-mining town of Jamestown into turmoil. Reporters poured in, tabloid-TV shows pressed for details, and local supporters took up a collection for Nesler's defense. Donna Brewer, who runs a cafe next to the courthouse, said Driver "deserved what he got. That's the worst crime there is." And Nesler's sister claimed that Driver, who had a previous conviction for child molestation, had "smirked" when he entered the courtroom. Almost lost in the hubbub was the district attorney, who called the shooting "reprehensible." Nesler, who was freed on $500,000 bond, will enter a plea this week. ..more.. by Time Magazine

Son of vigilante mother now subject of California manhunt
7-29-2004 California:

SONORA, Calif. (AP) -- In 1993, Ellie Nesler walked into a courtroom, pulled a gun from her purse and killed the man accused of molesting her 11-year-old son, William. Now William, who has had numerous brushes with the law over the years, is himself wanted for murder.

William Nesler, 23, allegedly beat David Davis to death Sunday just minutes after being released from jail in another attack on Davis last month. Nesler is now the target of an intense manhunt in this mountainous area of California.

Authorities say Nesler — booked in jail on 18 separate cases in the last five years — is 6-foot-2, weighs 225 pounds and is covered in tattoos; he's considered armed and dangerous.

"Investigators are following leads. He could be anywhere," said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Roger Dittberner.

On Wednesday afternoon, three officers with guns drawn returned to the one-acre lot where Nesler has lived, searching in the collection of trailers and shacks on the property. A reporter's car parked in front of a "No trespassing" sign had triggered the search, a deputy said.

A worker at a former rock crushing operation next door, Cory Njirich, said Nesler had seemed like he was trying to get his life in order. "He didn't get too far," he said.

Ellie Nesler burst into public view April 2, 1993, when she shot a twice-convicted child molester, Daniel Mark Driver, 35, five times in the head as he faced trial for seven molestation charges, including one related to her son. Nesler, derided for vigilantism and praised for exacting her own justice, is now in a California prison for charges related to manufacturing methamphetamine.

She received a 10-year prison sentence for murdering Driver, but was released after three years because of juror misconduct in the sanity phase of her trial.

Davis, 45, died Monday at a Modesto hospital. ..more.. by Associated Press

The story of Ellie Nesler offers a real-life gloss on the figure of the avenging mother. In 1993 Nesler walked into a California courtroom and with five shots from a palm-sized semi-automatic pistol killed a man charged with molesting four young boys, including her son. The incident was reported nationally, with some people hailing Nesler as heroic and others understanding her impulse but deploring her act. The shooting was both punitive and preemptive. According to the Los Angeles Times, the defendant "smirked" at Nesler as he entered the courthouse. Apparently in a rage, she took the gun from her sister's purse moments before the shooting and somehow carried it into the courtroom. Following her arrest Nesler said, "The man's sick. He deserved to die. Maybe I'm not God, but I'll tell you what -- I'm the closest thing to it for all the other little boys" (see Arax and Fuller). Four years later, released on parole, Nesler saw her action as a mistake, something that had afflicted the lives of her two children and compounded the pain of the initial situation. She saw, in other words, the consequences of what she had done.



4-4-1993 NY:

A man charged with molesting five boys at a church camp was shot to death during a court hearing on Friday by the mother of one boy, the authorities said.

The woman, Ellie Nesler, 40, was being led to the witness stand after a recess in a preliminary hearing for Daniel Driver, 35, when she pulled out a small handgun. She then shot him in the back of the head, said Mike Costa, an assistant sheriff here in Tuolumne County.

Mrs. Nesler surrendered immediately, he said. Witnesses said she appeared calm as she was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

"You might think that somebody who did something like that would be shriveled up, but she was proud," said Rick Shackley, a shop owner in this town in the Sierra Nevada about 120 miles southeast of San Francisco. Convicted in Earlier Case

Mr. Driver had been charged with molesting the boys from July 1986 to September 1988, when he worked at a church camp. He had a previous conviction for child molestation, said the Acting District Attorney, Michael Knowles.

Mrs. Nesler's son, who is 11, was among the boys Mr. Driver was accused of molesting, Mr. Costa said.

The authorities said courtroom spectators and witnesses were not checked for weapons.

Sgt. Bob Wolfgang of the sheriff's department said investigators from the State Attorney General's office would review the case before any charges were filed against Mrs. Nesler. Blaming Man's Smirk

Mrs. Nesler's sister Janette said Mr. Driver had set off the shooting with a smirk at the family as he was led into the courtroom.

"She wouldn't have done it if he didn't have that cocky look in the beginning," she said.

Mrs. Nesler used her telephone call from jail to talk with her son, who is staying with family members, said Marrietta Adams, another of Mrs. Nesler's sisters.

Ms. Adams did not fault her sister for the shooting. "What's a mother going to do?" she asked.

The shooting was the main topic of conversation in this town of about 2,200 people. "They were saying she deserves a medal and they want to be on the jury so they can let her go," a waitress, Denise Wested, said about the customers at the restaurant where she works here. ..Source.. by NYTimes


Ellie Nesler, Mother Who Killed Her Son's Accused Molester, Dies at 56


Ellie Nesler, who sparked a national debate about vigilantism after killing her son's accused molester in a courtroom in 1993, has died of cancer. She was 56.

Nesler died Friday morning at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, according to hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Brown. She had battled breast cancer since 1994.

Nesler made headlines when she shot Daniel Driver five times in the head in a Tuolumne County courtroom during a break in his preliminary hearing for allegedly molesting four boys, including her then-6-year-old son William, at a Christian camp. Some hailed her for exacting her own justice, while others condemned her for taking the law into her own hands.

Nesler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but her 10-year sentence was later overturned because of jury misconduct. She cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to manslaughter and get out after serving three years because she had breast cancer.

The case became a 1999 TV movie, "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story," on the USA cable network.

After the shooting, the Nesler family remained entangled in the legal system. In 2002, Nesler was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to selling and possessing methamphetamine. Outside the courtroom, she maintained her innocence, saying she felt she couldn't get a fair trial in Tuolumne County.

She got an early release from a women's facility in Chowchilla in 2006.

Meanwhile, her son got into legal troubles of his own and was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 for stomping to death a man hired to clean the family's property in Sonora. The 23-year-old said he believed David Davis was letting people pick through the family's belongings.

William Nesler killed Davis less than an hour after he was released from a 30-day sentence for an earlier assault on him. He is serving a 25-year-to-life sentence.

Prison officials allowed William Nesler to speak with his mother on the phone until she became too ill Christmas night, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"He knew she was very ill, and he knew her death was impending," Thornton said.

William Nesler has asked for a temporary leave to attend the funeral, and the request is being reviewed by prison officials, Thornton said. ..Source.. by Fox News

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