Keith Dwayne Nelson

On October 12, 1999, Keith Dwayne Nelson abducted ten-year old Pamela Butler as she rollerbladed on the street in front of her Kansas City, Kansas home. Nelson raped Butler before strangling her to death.

Nelson was arrested two days after the murder.

Subsequent investigation revealed that on September 29, 1999, Nelson had confided in a man he had just met that he was planning to rape and kill a woman. Facing other charges, he said that he might as well commit a big crime before he goes to prison. That man, James Robinson, did not report the incident.

On October 1, 1999, a man matching Nelson’s description attacked Michanne Mattson. After a lengthy struggle, she was able to escape and call police.

Continuing his search, on October 12, Nelson spotted Pamela Butler and made her his target. Waiting in his truck, he pulled her in as she skated by. Several witnesses, including Butler’s sister, witnessed the abduction, and provided police a description and license plate number.

That night, a couple working at a church in Kansas City, Missouri, who had seen news reports of the abduction, noticed a suspicious vehicle and called police. The vehicle, which matched the descriptions from that afternoon, was gone by the time police arrived.

The next day, police found the vehicle abandoned. The day after that, they found Nelson hiding under a bridge. As police apprehended him, he confessed and told authorities that Butler’s body was buried near the church where he had been spotted on the night of the murder.

On October 21, 1999, Nelson pleaded not guilty to the charges. After seeking a change of venue that delayed his trial for two years, on October 25, 2001, Nelson entered a guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. After a sentencing hearing, Nelson was sentenced to death on November 28.

His conviction was upheld on appeal in 2003.

Keith Dwayne Butler was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on August 28, 2020.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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