Notable Deaths


December 30, 2008


Vigilante killer

Ellie Nesler, who sparked a national debate about vigilantism after killing her son's accused molester in a courtroom in 1993, died of cancer Friday morning at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif., according to hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Brown.

Ms. Nesler made headlines when she shot Daniel Driver five times in the head in a Tuolumne County, Calif., courtroom during a break in his preliminary hearing on charges of molesting four boys, including her then-6-year-old son, William, at a Christian camp. Some hailed her for exacting her own justice, while others condemned her for taking the law into her own hands.

Ms. Nesler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but her 10-year sentence was later overturned because of jury misconduct. She made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to manslaughter and get out after serving three years because she had breast cancer.

The case became a 1999 TV movie, Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story, on the USA cable network.

After the shooting, the Nesler family remained entangled in the legal system. In 2002, Nesler was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to selling and possessing methamphetamine.

Her son was convicted of first-degree murder in 2005 for stomping to death a man hired to clean the family's property in Sonora. The 23-year-old said he believed David Davis was letting people pick through the family's belongings.

William Nesler killed Mr. Davis less than an hour after being released from a 30-day sentence for an earlier assault on him. He is serving a sentence of 25 years to life.

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