Home for Christmas: Teen who gunned down caregiver as she did jigsaw puzzle granted parole

One of New Zealand’s youngest murderers – who shot his caregiver in the back of the head as she sat doing a jigsaw puzzle at the kitchen table – has been granted parole after spending just eight years behind bars.

Earlier this year Jordan Nelson was refused an early release from prison with the Parole Board saying he was still an undue risk to the community.

But at a hearing last week the killer – now 21 – convinced them he could be released safely.

Nelson will be a free man on December 9 but will be subject to strict parole conditions for five years including electronic monitoring and a ban on owning or using any kind of firearm, explosive or ammunition.

He will be subject to a number of other conditions until mid- 2030.

In April 2012 Nelson, then 13, murdered his caregiver, Rosemaree Kurth, at her home near New Plymouth in April 2012.

Kurth, 50, was the partner of Nelson’s grandfather Kerry Lock and he had been living with the couple.

Lock was out tending to cattle on the rural property when Kurth was shot.

When he returned home he followed “bloody drag marks” into a spare bedroom and found Kurth’s body on the floor.

Nelson was nowhere to be seen – he’d stolen money and a car and fled to Waitara where he was later arrested.

He later admitted shooting Kurth at close range – with a rifle he had hidden earlier – because he believed she was stopping him from visiting his mother.

The court later heard that it was not Kurth preventing the visit, it was Oranga Tamariki (then known as Child Youth and Family).

While Nelson pleaded guilty to murder but was not sentenced to life imprisonment.

Sentencing judge Justice Paul Heath said that in the light of Nelson’s culpability and having regard to his age, brain development and personal circumstances it would be “manifestly unjust” to sentence him to life behind bars.

He said there would be no hope of release and a disincentive for him to undertake programmes if he was jailed indefinitely.

Instead, he sentenced Nelson to a finite term of 18 years imprisonment, with no minimum non-parole period.

In New Zealand a life sentence is just that – and even if the Parole Board grants a release from prison an offender can be recalled to prison to continue serving that time if they breach conditions.

Nelson was not sentenced to life though, so the board imposing conditions until April 2030 gives it the power to recall him to jail if he reoffends or breaches.

Parole Board panel convenor Mary More revealed that this year Nelson had been participating in the release-to-work programme and saved enough money to purchase a car.

“He has privileges to drive himself to work in the orchards,” she said.

“He has also obtained his forklift licence and driver’s licence.”

Victims had made submissions to the board and those were discussed with Nelson in detail.

More said Nelson told the board he “has remorse” and wanted to write “apology letters” to the victims and see them in person for a restorative justice meeting.

The victims are yet to indicate if they are interested in participating.

“Mr Nelson said he imagines the victims are raw and numb, and still suffering and he accepts what they have to say,” said More.

“He said that he can do the best that he can to get himself on his feet, and when the time comes he would like the opportunity to apologise to the victims.

“He said it would not be easy, but he would be prepared to meet with them face-to-face if they wished.”

A psychological assessment was undertaken and the board was told that Nelson had “increased in maturity over the last couple of months”.

“He is more open with staff and engaging with reintegration planning,” More said.

He told the psychologist that he had ended a relationship with an older woman and mum-of-two that he met while behind bars, but had requested approval to contact another woman.

He said that woman was “a friend of a friend” and while he was not in a relationship with her he was “open to that”.

However the psychologist said Nelson later said he was not looking for a relationship “at the moment”.

“Mr Nelson spoke to the board about what he has learned with the psychologist, about how his personality has changed and how he looks at things differently,” said More.

“He said his biggest challenges have been emotions, and understanding how he feels, and recognising his behaviour.

“He was able to give examples of times when his behaviour has been below par and how he has managed it.

“Taking into account the work Mr Nelson has done, the rehabilitation and reintegration that is under way and his release proposal; the board considers that any undue risk he continues to pose can be met by way of special conditions, as such his risk is not undue and he will be released on parole.”

More said Nelson would be subject to strict special conditions for the first five years of his release including living at an approved address and not moving without express permission, submitting to electronic monitoring, not entering the Taranaki or Northland areas without written prior approval from his probation officer, attending any psychological assessments as directed, and not using or possessing drugs or alcohol.

He has also been ordered not to “own or possess any firearm/restricted weapon/air or gas-powered weapon/imitation firearm/explosives or ammunition”.

And he must not contact any victims of his offending.

Standard parole conditions including reporting regularly to a probation officer and having his address, employment and rehabilitation monitored would stay in place until April 2030.

'More work to do' – Nelson's previous parole bids rejected

Nelson became eligible for parole in April 2018.

The first time he saw the board he said he did not want parole as he had “more work to do” and acknowledged he needed more help and to gain insight into his offending, which at that point he still could not explain.

In March Nelson was refused parole because the board felt he was “over confident” about his ability to manage life on the outside.

It was also revealed then that he was in a relationship with a mother-of-two 15 years his senior, who started writing to him after he was sentenced.

The board heard that Nelson had spoken to his psychologist about “parenting those children in the future”.

The board said given Nelson was only 21 and had spent most of his youth in prison, it was “concerning” to think he was planning to step into a parental role.

In April the board encouraged Nelson to “concentrate on two things” before they could think about letting him leave prison.

“Firstly, his release to work – where he can illustrate that he can cope in a variety of circumstances in a community that he has not been in as an adult,” said Parole Board chairman Sir Ron Young.

“Secondly, that he reconsiders his release plans and thinks about some supported accommodation initially so that he can develop a relationship with [the man he wants to stay with] before consideration is given to living with them.

“In the meantime, he remains an undue risk.”

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