Murder case could be sent out of the county

Finding a judge to sit on death penalty case proves difficult

Brad L. Nelson

Brad L. Nelson

KINGMAN - Which judge will try a Mohave County death penalty case is now in question.

Brad L. Nelson, 38, of Kingman is charged with the first-degree murder of his 14-year-old niece, Amber Leann Graff, at a motel in the 3200 block of E. Andy Devine Avenue in 2006 and molestation of a child.

Judge Robert Moon is currently sitting on the case but is due to step down in January. His successor, Rick Williams, cannot sit on the case because he served as co-council for Nelson.

State law requires that two attorneys defend a person in a death penalty case, one of the attorneys must be trained or have experience handling death penalty cases.

Williams filed a motion to withdraw from the case earlier this month. Moon granted the motion Wednesday afternoon and granted another motion to appoint a second attorney to replace him. Moon then recused himself from the case and sent the case for reassignment to presiding Superior Court Judge Randolph Bartlett.

The question is, which Mohave County Superior Criminal Court judge will be assigned the case?

Commissioner Lee Jantzen cannot take the case because he was serving as a deputy county attorney when the case was first brought before the court.

Judge Steven Conn originally had the case but was served a notice for a change of judge and the case was transferred to Moon's courtroom.

Superior Court Judges Charles Gurtler, Bartlett, and James Chavez handle mostly civil cases. Judge Richard Weiss handles mostly juvenile or family court cases. The case could be sent out of the county.

Moon set the case for an evidentiary hearing at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 on a motion to suppress a statement Nelson made to a judge during his initial appearance.

Nelson allegedly asked the judge, "If I plead guilty now, would you be able to sentence me to the death penalty?"

Moon denied an earlier motion to suppress a statement Nelson allegedly made to a corrections officer after his initial appearance.