Accused 'Is No Angel': Lawyer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    La Mesa resident Sandy Herbst-Vinge was abducted from her home one week ago.

    On Monday, jurors began hearing closing arguments in the case of an elderly woman who was kidnapped and beaten.

    Jeffrey Nelson, 20, Luis Osbourne, 19, and Antoinette Baker, 20, were all accused of abducting and beating Natalie Herbst-Vinge last December, San Diego Sheriff's deputies said.

    Testimony at Nelson's trial wrapped up last week. He is charged with attempted murder and torture in connection with the case.

    Baker later entered a plea deal with prosecutors and testified at Nelson's trial last week. Osbourne will be in court next Monday for a status hearing. Prosecutors believe that he will either plead guilty at that time or that his case will be set for trial.

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    On Monday, Nelson's attorney, Bart Sheela, told jurors that they should be skeptical of the testimony of Baker, who was given immunity to testify. Sheela said she had a motive to "fabricate" Nelson's role in the crimes and lie about what Nelson did to Herbst-Vinge.

    Sheela conceded his client "is no angel" but said that the jury must decide if he committed the crimes. He also said Nelson never really "planned" to kill Herbst-Vinge, so he is not guilty of attempted murder. The defense attorney also said Nelson admitted he had a plan to kidnap Herbst-Vinge and to steal from her house but that he never had any plan to kill her.

    In his rebuttal, prosecutor Paul Greenwood told the court that Nelson put pads in the trunk to keep the car clean, not to comfort Herbst-Vinge, and said Nelson had a shovel in the trunk because he planned to bury her after killing her. Greenwood also said that depriving Herbst-Vinge of water for 26 hours -- along with being hit in the face by Nelson and being wrapped with duct tape -- is clearly evidence of torture.

    Nelson cleaned Herbst-Vinge's carpet and then, according to prosecutors, returned to rob her. Over the next 26 hours the three suspects are accused of kidnapping and beating the victim, locking her in the trunk of a car and using her stolen credit cards.

    Nelson went to the victim's home on Resmar Place in unincorporated La Mesa to clean the carpet. Instead, Herbst-Vinge's son said last year, Nelson sold his mother a vacuum cleaner for $2,300, came back to thank her, saying the sale helped him win a trip to Hawaii. That night, Nelson returned again saying he needed to use the phone because he had broken up with his girlfriend. That's when, Herbst-Vinge's son said, the suspect attacked his mother, bound her with duct tape and dragged her to her Dodge wagon.

    When Herbst-Vinge woke up, two other suspects were also in the vehicle, according to her son. Herbst-Vinge chewed through the duct tape and screamed for help while they were at a gas station, to no avail. The suspects then parked the car for the night, leaving Herbst-Vinge inside, said investigators. The next day, the suspects returned, then drove around the county with Herbst-Vinge in the trunk.

    "This is the most egregious, baffling set of circumstances I've ever come across," Greenwood said last year.

    Deputies said they tried to pull over the wagon for running a red light on Tangerine Street in El Cajon but that the driver refused to yield and eventually managed to elude officers. Shortly afterward, deputies spotted the vehicle with the suspects inside, who fled on foot. Osbourne was taken into custody immediately; Nelson and Baker were arrested after a manhunt in the area. Deputies found Herbst-Vinge tied up in the back of the car.

    After her rescue, Herbst-Vinge's face was covered in black and blue bruises and was very swollen. According to her son, she suffered from blurred vision and had difficulty controlling one eye. Her skin was ripped and scabbing around her wrists where she was bound with duct tape.