Man sentenced for involvement in murder near Lake Lowell last spring

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 09:51:53-04

A man Canyon County prosecutors say was involved in the beating death of a gay man near Lake Lowell last April was sentenced Monday for his involvement in the crime.

Defendant Kevin Tracy will return to jail for six months before serving a long term probation sentence which, if violated, could result in a 25 year prison term.

Lawyers for both the state and defense agreed Tracy had knowledge of plans to rob the victim, but was not involved in the planning or executing of the beating which ultimately caused 49-year-old Steven Nelson's death.

Prosecutors say Tracy's information helped lead to convictions for the two men largely responsible for planning and carrying out the robbing and beating death, Kelly Schneider and Jayson Woods.

At his own sentencing hearing Monday, Tracy sat in the courtroom teary-eyed with his head down for nearly two and a half hours while listening to legal arguments and victim impact statements from the family of the victim.

Canyon County Prosecutor Christopher Boyd recommended probation rather than a long prison sentence for the defendant, whom offered testimony against other defendants in the case and immediately shared details with law enforcement.

Tracy spoke inside a Canyon County courtroom to the victim's family saying he was truly sorry for what happened to their brother and son, whom he said didn't deserve what happened to him the night of April 29, 2016. 

According to prosecutors, the victim, Steven Nelson, responded to an online advertisement for a gay sexual encounter. The victim met Kelly Shneider and a Walmart parking lot, and drove him to an area near Lake Lowell.

At the Gott’s Point location, Schneider reportedly attacked the victim, choking him from behind, pushing him to the ground and then kicking him several times with steel-toed boots. Prosecutors say Schneider and co-defendant Jayson Woods, 28, allegedly then robbed and stripped him before fleeing the scene in the victim’s car with his belongings.

Nelson managed to make his way to a house about a mile away, where he rang the doorbell of a home yelling for help, prompting the homeowner to call 911.

He provided a Canyon County Sheriff’s Office deputy with descriptions of his attackers and details on the attack, before he died several hours later at a local hospital.

In February, a jury found Jayson Woods guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and accepting earnings from a prostitute.

Kelly Schneider is also facing life in prison and faced federal hate crime charges for the brutal beating death.

Monday, Judge Davis VanderVelde sentenced Tracy to 547 days in jail, including one year for time already served. At that point the defendant will begin a 10 year fixed probation term with the possibility of an additional 15 years. If he violates his probation he could serve up to 25 years in prison.

The fourth defendant involved in the case, Daniel Henkel, is set to be sentenced next week.