Judge rejects plea deal for man accused of throwing toddler from bridge

Attorneys for Stephen Todd Nelson, who's accused of killing his 3-year-old son in February 2008 by tossing the boy off the Key Bridge, are expected to continue plea discussions Tuesday morning after a Baltimore judge rejected the initial deal struck with prosecutors.

Nelson, who had been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death, was brought in to court Monday morning — hours before his trial was set to begin — to plead guilty to second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. But Baltimore Circuit Judge George L. Russell Jr. wouldn't accept the arrangement.

"I thought that the plea was too light under the circumstances," Russell said. He ordered the parties to begin trial "immediately" before Judge Charles Peters, who plans to resume the case Tuesday morning after studying court documents, the state's attorney's office confirmed.

Nelson's competency has been an issue in the case. He allegedly told Maryland Transportation Authority Police that "demons" made him kill his son, Turner Jordan Nelson, and he attempted suicide shortly after the event. The boy's body was found in the Patapsco River more than five months after being thrown from the bridge Feb. 3, 2008.

According to court documents, Nelson called the boy's mother about 9:30 p.m. that night and said he would rather kill their son than allow another man to raise him. The couple had split up about six months after Turner's birth. Nelson called the woman back an hour later and said he had killed the boy, according to police, then went to his mother's house, where he ingested cleaning chemicals.

He confessed to the killing from a hospital bed 10 days later, police said.


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