It was 1993 and Daniel Driver was on trial for raping and molesting Ellie’s son, Willy, when he was just six years-old. Driver was also being tried for the sexual abuse of four other boys.
Out of fear that her son’s rapist would get away with it, Ellie Nesler took a gun and killed Daniel Driver in a crowded courtroom. Ellie Nesler was a mother who knew there was a very good chance that her son’s (alleged) perpetrator would get away with raping her child. After all, he had gotten away with it before. Driver had previously been convicted of child sexual abuse –twice. Driver received probation for those crimes.
Nesler was charged and convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Her son, Willy, went to live with his aunt. Ellie served four years of her a ten year sentence in a California prison, while her son continued to battle the inner demons initiated by being raped as a young boy. Willy was sent to boot camps throughout his teens.
In 2001, Ellie Nesler was arrested for selling and possessing meth. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. While his mother was in prison, 23-year-old Willy could not win the fight with his psychological problems. In 2004, Willy stomped a man to death. He now sits in prison, serving 28 years to life.
In 2008, after Ellie Nesler was released from prison, she died of breast cancer.
(Willy, Ellie, and Rebecca)
Rebecca, Willy’s sister, says she doesn’t think Willy would be in prison if her mother didn’t shoot Daniel Driver and thinks that Willy had gotten past the child sexual abuse that he endured. I respectfully disagree. Not that I condone it for one second, but Ellie Nelser did what countless incest and child molestation victims would have secretly loved their mothers to do. I include myself in that group. Many victims and survivors of child abuse, who had mothers that turned their heads to the abuse, facilitated it, or who helped in the rapes, would prefer to have had a mother who loved them so much that they would have taken a gun and shot their perpetrator in order to stop the rapes.
I think that, deep inside, the little boy that Willy once was, rejoiced when he saw his (alleged) rapist shot dead. Yes, the adult Willy certainly wishes his mother had not gone to prison, and that she had taken another road, but she wasn’t behind bars for very long. Ellie missing from Willy’s life for four years would not have caused such rage in him to have stomped a man to death.
Willy did not stomp a woman to death, he stomped a man to death.
The man must have triggered Willy in some way, consciously or subconsciously –triggered him back to the rapes. The man may have said something that reminded Willy of being abused, or might have taken some kind of seemingly harmless action that made Willy feel like he was being sexually violated all over again. After the murder, Willy said the man (who had been hired to clean the family’s property) was letting people pick through his family’s personal items. This in itself would make Willy feel personally violated by a man. This is most likely the trigger. We don’t know, and maybe even Willy doesn’t know for certain what sent him into such a rage that day. But it was a rage over being raped as a defenseless boy, not rage at his mother for having shot his rapist.
There is no way that Willy was “over being molested.” Willy said himself in an interview with NBC reporter, Dan Abrams, that it was the sexual abuse that led him on his path of rage and violence. Willy said, “It’s a scar that you have with you for life, and nothing is going to fix that.” But in an incongruous statement, Dan Abrams reported that Willy said he had indeed “moved on.” Abrams also noted that Willy hated the attention that was drawn to himself after his mother shot his perpetrator. It made people say, “Hey, that’s the kid who was molested.” It is possible that he transferred some of that anger towards his mother. Further into the interview, Abrams notes Willy’s shame and embarrassment over being raped by a man. He said that Willy mentioned all the “pretty girlfriends” he had, and Abrams sensed Willy’s shame about being raped by a male. Personally, I think this is the true source of Willy’s rage.
Dan Abrams also noted that he was impressed with Willy. Abrams said, “Very often when I’ll interview someone in prison, they’ll either blame other people or they’ll be angry or they’ll talk about their innocence. Willy didn’t do any of that. He was really introspective and thoughtful about his whole life and about the path that had led him there. That really struck me.”
What a beautiful thing. Not too many people look within themselves for the source of their problems. Willy was a victim when he was a child, and he was a victim of his mother’s recklessness and drug problems, but when he became an adult, Willy had a choice to kill a man or not. That Willy recognizes this truth is not only liberating for him, but healing as well.
Willy will most likely serve his sentence until 2031, the year he is up for parole. I hope he gets another chance at freedom.