Group pushes for addition of hate crime charges

Posted at 2:57 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 19:14:47-04

"Better Idaho" is urging U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson to add federal hate crime charges to the four men investigators say are responsible for the death of Steven Nelson.

Better Idaho Research Director Jordan Brady spoke at the Idaho Statehouse on May 19th after delivering a petition with 1,533  signatures to Olson’s office supporting the hate crime charge. More than 1,000 signatures came from Idaho residents, the remaining spread across 45 states and Washington D.C.

Brady referenced the Malicious Harassment law drafted in 1983 which covers race, color, religion, ancestry and national origin but not sexual orientation. He says lawmakers need to address this issue, providing protection to all Idahoans.

Investigators say Steven Nelson died after being robbed and beaten in a remote area near Lake Lowell after answering an online ad for sex with another man.  Kelly Schneider, Jayson Woods, Daniel Henkel and Kevin Tracy are now being held without bond, facing first-degree murder charges.

Nelson was found naked and severely injured but was able to describe his attackers to detectives before dying from his injuries.

All four men remain in custody and could face the death penalty in the attack.

Following the arrests, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue emphasized that the case was a "top priority" for the department and detectives are actively looking to see who else might have been involved with the group in carrying out similar crimes.

“I don’t want the victims out there being concerned with coming forward because they are fearful of prosecution for solicitation of sex,” Donahue said during the press conference on Saturday, April 30th. “We are centered on the individuals who are victimizing those people who are on the internet making those solicitations.”