‘Self-appointed’ landlord convicted of killing 2 tenants receives life sentence


PORTLAND, Ore. — A “self-appointed” landlord in Oregon accused of killing two tenants was sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 35 years.

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Phillip Lawrence Nelson, 42, of Portland, was sentenced to the life term on Friday by a Multnomah County jury, The Oregonian reported.

Nelson, who claimed self-defense in the 2020 killing, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Cassy Leaton and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Najaf “Nate” Hobbs, according to the newspaper.

The two were attacked on June 16, 2020, in Portland, KGW-TV reported. Hobbs, 39, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Leaton, 22, died later at an area hospital, according to the television station.

Nelson was arrested two days later, according to KPTV.

The incident occurred at a fourplex at 1403 N.E. Davis Street. Police had been called to the residence days before the killings after Hobbs and Leaton reported that Nelson was falsely depicting himself as the landlord, The Oregonian reported.

Nelson had occupied one of the units in the fourplex since March 2019 and had gained the trust of the building’s owner after removing squatters, but he did not have permission to sublet the residence or act as a landlord, according to the newspaper.

However, Nelson collected rents, handled repair requests and changed locks, according to court records.

Hobbs moved into the building in the spring of 2020 but changed the locks on the couple’s unit, according to a lawsuit filed by an attorney representing his estate. Hobbs had been concerned about Nelson’s alleged behavior, The Oregonian reported.

Nelson testified that he went into the basement of the fourplex and turned off the water for the unit occupied by Hobbs and Leaton, The Oregonian reported.

The couple sawed through a wooden lattice leading to the basement, returned to their apartment and returned to try to turn on the water valve, according to the newspaper.

Prosecutors said Nelson was waiting for them in the basement and attacked them with a 12-inch blade that he nicknamed “necronita,” The Oregonian reported.

Prosecutors said that Nelson stabbed the couple “repeatedly” during their confrontation, according to the newspaper. Both victims were unarmed.

Officer Zachary Nell testified that he told Nelson he was misapplying Oregon’s “adverse possession” law and had no right to collect rent for the other units, The Oregonian reported. He advised the couple not to pay any more, prompting Nelson to send emails warning the police officer that he had “risked lives,” according to court records.

Nelson said his misunderstanding of the law led to his actions, according to The Oregonian.

“If I’d had a better understanding of the law, as I do know, my decisions leading to the death of Najaf and Cassy would have been very different,” Nelson said in court on Friday. “There is nothing that can be done to fill this void in your lives.”

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