A plan to procure women in Ashley County to act in pornographic movies ended in tragedy last summer when two men ditched that plan and robbed a Crossett bank instead. Shortly before the robbery, 58-year-old Donna Woodberry was shot to death and her car was used as the getaway car in the bank robbery.
“If there ever was a plan to make pornographic movies, it did not materialize, because the plan, instead, was to rob a bank,” 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen said in his opening statement Tuesday afternoon at Kendall Nickelson’s murder trial in Hamburg.
Nickelson, 27, of Brookhaven, Miss., is on trial for first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and theft.
His co-defendant, Peter Harvey, 42, of Opelousas, La. was sentenced to life without parole in March after pleading guilty to murder, aggravated robbery and theft. Another co-defendant, Adrianne Green, 31, of Crossett, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on April 19 after pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and theft.
Just days before the July 1 bank robbery and murder of Woodberry, Nickelson went to Opelousas to meet Harvey, a friend of Nickelson’s mother, who was reportedly going to give him a job working in Harvey’s strip club.
“I think you’ll find, in the end, that there never was a club,” Deen told the jury.
The duo left Opelousas and went to a house in Shreveport, where Harvey picked up a few items, then they headed to Arkansas where they were supposed to get some women to either take back to the supposed strip club or have them appear in pornographic videos.
In Crossett, they met Harvey’s friend Adrianne Green.
Instead of locating women to work in the strip club or appear in porno films, the duo engaged in a bank robbery with Green’s assistance, according to Deen.
Green helped select the bank to rob, planned the escape route, and purchased items for use in the robbery, Deen said.
She was captured on video purchasing paint ball masks, zip ties and gas cans. The gas cans were to be used to start a fire in one part of the city to divert police while they robbed a bank in another part of the city. A fire was never set, but someone was murdered.
Using Google maps as a visual aid, Deen showed the various locations where the trio traveled the morning of July 1. He pointed out, in particular, how close Green’s house was to Woodberry’s home.
He said Nickelson, who always did the driving, left the motel where he stayed while in Crossett, and went to Green’s house to pick up Harvey and Green. They went to Wal Mart where Green purchased the robbery supplies, then returned to Green’s house to drop her off because she’ had completed her job, Deen said.
“She helped plan it, she helped scope the place out with routes, and she helped supply the equipment,” he said.
Then, Deen said, Harvey had Nickelson drop him off on the side of the road a short distance from Green’s house and instructed Nickelson to return to the motel and he would meet him later.
A witness later testified that while standing in his grandfather’s front yard near Woodberry’s home, he saw a lone black male slam on the brakes of a car, skid, back up to a gravel drive, get out of the car, pull something out of the trunk, say “I told you MF,” then shot it.
The witness would later learn that it was Woodberry that was taken from the trunk and shot. She died of a single gnshot wound to the head.
Harvey later showed up at the motel, driving Woodberry’s car, and tells Nickelson to follow him in his Cadillac Escalade to the Faith Ministries Church parking lot, Deen said.
The plan, Deen told the jury, was to use Woodberry’s car in the bank robbery then return to the Escalade.
In the bank, Harvey ordered employees and a customer to the floor at gunpoint while Nickelson hit an employee in the face several times, breaking her nose, and demanded money, Deen said.
After the bank robbery, the duo went back to the church, left Woodberry’s car, and headed back to Louisiana in Nickelson’s Escalade, Deen said.
Shelby Hughes, a criminal investigator with the Crossett Police Department, developed the first good lead in the case when it occurred to her that the “industrial type” masks worn by the bank robbers were perhaps the type of masks used in paint ball games. After learning that the only store in Crossett that sold paint ball masks is Wal Mart, Hughes viewed the store’s video footage and checked receipts and saw that Adrianna Green had purchased two paint ball masks along with the other items.
Green was arrested in Crossett and Harvey was arrested in Louisiana where Nickelson left him before going to Texas. Nickelson subsequently turned himself in to Texas authorities.
The jury later heard a taped interview in which Nickelson said he got $3,000 from the bank robbery that he used to pay previous fines, make child support payments, and purchase food and gasoline. He said he did not know that Woodberry was murdered until police told his mother while they were looking for him.
In her opening statement, Nickelson’s attorney Katherine Streeter conceded that Nickelson struck the bank employee and participated in the bank robbery, but did so under duress. She said Harvey, armed with a gun, threatened him.
To convict Nickelson of Woodberry’s murder, the jury would have to find that during the course and furtherance of the bank robbery, Nickelson was an accomplice in her death, according to Streeter.
“There is no proof of that in this case,” Streeter said. “When the evidence is in, I don’t think there’s going to be any question that Peter Harvey murdered Donna Woodberry and I think you will not only have reasonable doubt, you will have every kind of doubt in the world that Kendell Nickelson ever knew anything like that was going to happen.”
She told the jurors that she believes they will have serious doubt that Woodberry’s murder was through the course of a bank robbery, and if so, they have no choice but to acquit Nickelson of the murder charge.
The trial resumes Wednesday.