The last of the trio involved in the July 2010 Crossett bank robbery was sentenced to 90 years in prison Thursday after an Ashley County jury convicted Kendell Nickelson of aggravated robbery and theft. Circuit Judge Sam Pope declared a mistrial on a murder charge when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision after six hours of deliberation.
In addition to the bank robbery and theft, Nickelson was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Donna Woodberry, who was shot to death by Nickelson’s co-defendant Peter Harvey shortly before the bank robbery. Her stolen vehicle was used as the getaway car in the robbery. Though Nickelson was not the shooter in the Woodberry murder, her death occurred during the course and in the futherance of the bank robbery, the prosecution maintained.
Nickelson, 27, will not be eligible for parole until he is 74 years old. He will have to serve 70 percent of his 60-year sentence for aggravated robbery and one-sixth of the 30-year sentence for theft before he is eligible.
Pleading for mercy during the sentencing phase of the trial, Nickelson’s fiance and the mother of one of his four daughters, Michelle Lofton, told the jury that it was not in Nickelson’s character to do the things he was convicted of doing. Nickelson was convicted of robbing the Crossett bank of $20,000 and beating a bank employee in the face with his fist, breaking her nose.
“I throw myself on the mercy of the court, please give him another chance,” Lofton pleaded. “I understand that things were did that were wrong and people were hurt but it’s not in his character, I promise you.”
On cross examination, 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen reminded Lofton of Nickelson’s prior felonies and asked if those were in his character. He was convicted of a drug possession charge in 2004 and identity fraud in 2005.
She said those crimes were not in his character either.
Because of his prior felony convictions, he faced enhanced sentences. The theft conviction carried a maximum 30-year sentence and the aggravated robbery conviction carried a possible 10 to 60 years or life in prison. Deen did not recommend a life sentence but did ask the jury to consider a long-term sentence.
Pointing out the violent nature of Nickelson’s offense, Deen asked the jurors what risk were they willing to take. “Would he be less likely to offend (again) at age 35? 40? 45?” Deen asked. “Would you see him again in the headlines at age 50?”
In his closing remarks, Nickelson’s defense attorney, Chris Nebben, pointed out that his client was convicted as an accomplice and if it hadn’t been for the gun used by his co-defendant, Nickelson wouldn’t have been charged with aggravated robbery.
“What (Nickelson) did in that bank was despicable behavior; no one disputes that,” Nebben said. “But he was not the man with the gun.”
Underscoring the defense’s position throughout the trial, Nebben told the jury that Nickelson was afraid of his co-defendant, Peter Harvey.
The jury deliberated about 20 minutes before they returned with the sentencing recommendation.
Accepting the jury’s recommendation, Pope sentenced Nickelson to 60 years in prison for aggravated robbery, 30 years for theft and ordered the two sentences to run consecutive.
Nickelson’s co-defendant, Peter Harvey, 42, of Opelousas, Louisiana. 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. Green helped plan the bank robbery and purchased supplies to assist in the robbery.