Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
TEEN NEIGHBOR CONVICTED OF BLUDGEONING
AND MURDERING 73-YEAR-OLD WOMAN
WHILE BURGLARIZING HOMES
SANTA ANA – An 18-year-old was convicted and sentenced today to 25 years to life in prison for bludgeoning and murdering his 73-year-old neighbor after breaking into her Laguna Niguel home when he was 15-years-old. Samuel Moses Nelson was found guilty of one felony count of murder with allegations for murder during the commission of another felony, the personal use of a deadly weapon, and committing a crime against a vulnerable victim. He was also found guilty of five felony counts of first degree residential burglary. The trial was heard by the Honorable Frank Fasel in a court trial.
On April 15, 2004 at approximately 3:00 a.m., Nelson opened a rear sliding glass door and broke into the condo of a 27-year-old neighbor while she was sleeping. He stole the victim’s purse containing cash and credit cards. On May 27, 2004 at approximately 1:00 a.m., Nelson broke into the condo of another 27-year-old neighbor while she was showering. He stole two wallets from a purse.
On June 18, 2004, the defendant broke into the home of another neighbor, 73-year-old Jane Thompson, while she was away. He stole jewelry and credit cards from an upstairs bedroom. On June 24, 2004, Nelson returned to Thompson’s house and stole a purse containing credit cards as the victim slept nearby on the living room couch.
In the early morning of Friday, June 25, 2004, Nelson broke into Thompson’s house for a third time and stood over the victim holding a hammer as she slept on the couch. When Thompson awoke, Nelson murdered the victim by crushing her skull after repeatedly bludgeoning her over the head with the hammer.
Thompson was not discovered until Saturday, June 26, 2004. Orange County Sheriff’s deputies went to Ms. Thompson’s home after worried friends called the police and asked them to check on her. Officers later found Thompson’s stolen purse and wallet in a drain on the hillside behind her home.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.