Gay Man Brutally Murdered, Left Naked to Die in Apparent Hate Crime


Steven Nelson Was Strangled, Kicked 30 Times With Steel-Toed Boots

A gay Idaho man was brutally murdered last week, left naked and alone to die, after responding to an online ad for a male escort. 

Four men are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Steven Nelson, 49, who was choked and kicked about 30 times with steel-toed boots on Friday following an apparent robbery, according to police. They are not currently facing hate crime charges.

Nelson, who worked at Boise State University, had responded to the ad on the website Backpage, according to The Idaho Press-Tribune

Nelson later picked up one of the suspects, 22-year-old Kelly Schneider, at a Wal-Mart in Nampa before driving him to an area known as Gotts Point, near Lake Lowell. After Nelson offered to pay Schneider for sex, another man arrived with a rifle. 

That's when Schneider threw Nelson to the ground and began choking and kicking him, reports. Two other men also showed up, and the suspects took Nelson's clothes, wallet and car keys before forcing him to tell them the PIN number for his credit cards. 

After the suspects drove off in his car, Nelson walked naked to a nearby home. He was taken to the hospital, but died hours later from cardiac arrest. 

"A lot of people whom I've personally talked to think it's a hate crime," Becky Tallent, Nelson's former journalism professor at the University of Idaho, told the Press-Tribune. "If you are targeting a group of people to harm them, it is a hate crime."

Schneider, 21-year-old Kevin Tracy, 28-year-old Jayson Woods and 23-year-old Daniel Henkel were arrested and charged with murder and robbery, KTVB reports. Schneider faces an additional charge of grand theft. If convicted, all four could face up to life in prison or the death penalty. Sheriff Kieran Donahue told KTVB the four men were part of "a conspiracy ring" that robbed others who answered ads for sex in the past, and is urging those victims to come forward. 

Denise Bennett, another one of Nelson's former journalism professors, called him a "bright, creative, passionate person" who had "an excellent sense of humor." 

When Nelson was Bennett's student, he was featured in a documentary she produced, "Little Blue Dots," about the challenges LGBT people face living in red states like Idaho. 

"In 2014, when (Gov.) Butch Otter was really saying some crazy things about gay marriage, we decided to focus on that issue," said Bennett.

Susie Black-Haynes told KTVB she knew Nelson for 15 years, and remembers him as "a goofball," "fun," "very sweet," and "loving."

A memorial service for Nelson is set for May 14 at Boise State University, where he worked as the phonathon manager overseeing the call center. 
Image of Steve Nelson: Screenshot via Vimeo

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