Shavelle Chavez-Nelson had a long and violent record when he met Anarae Schunk. Her friends said she thought she could help him.
Shavelle Chavez-Nelson spent a total of less than four of the past 14 years outside the walls of Minnesota jails or prisons. In that time, he was accused or convicted of at least seven violent crimes.
He and Anarae Schunk, a smart 20-year-old college student, met at a bus stop in the summer of 2012, during Nelson’s longest stretch as a free man. He told her he was a hedge fund manager, and despite the disapproval of her family and friends, Schunk dated him for a few months. Those who knew her say she thought she could help him.
Court documents and interviews reveal that Nelson, also known as Anthony Lee Nelson, may have been too far entrenched in a violent lifestyle to be reformed by anyone, let alone a young woman from Burnsville whom everyone agreed had a bright future.
The story of what happened when their paths crossed also raises the question of why someone with a propensity toward crime and violence was released from behind bars time and time again.
Nelson is a suspect in Schunk’s death, although charges are not expected to be filed for several weeks. He is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Palagor Obang Jobi, 23, of Savage, and is in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $2 million bail. Jobi was killed the same night Schunk disappeared.
“I think she understood that he had a violent criminal history. But she also believed in the good of humanity and in people’s power to change, and her power to bring that change about,” Schunk’s oldest brother, Tyson, said Thursday, two days after police announced that a body found in a roadside ditch was his sister’s.
Jobi’s and Schunk’s deaths appear to have been the culmination of a crescendo of violent crimes that had Nelson bouncing in and out of custody.
He served nearly eight years for his most recent robbery convictions. State law mandates that incarcerated offenders serve two-thirds of their sentence behind bars, with the remaining third on supervised release. A month after his parole ended, he was charged with armed burglary. He spent most of the past three months in jail and was freed Sept. 19 after posting $25,000 bail.
Three days later, Jobi was dead and Schunk missing.
Nelson’s release infuriated Schunk’s loved ones, who say he shouldn’t ever have been out of prison, much less jail.
Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Moreno, who set Nelson’s bond amount, would not comment on the case.
“There would be an explosion in our jails if judges set bail based on what might happen,” said Mark Osler, a professor of criminal law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. “Every defendant poses a risk. With 20/20 hindsight, to say this risk was realized, it’s heartbreaking. But that doesn’t make it effective to deny bail to everyone who is a risk.”
A case like this is “a judge’s worst nightmare,” said retired Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin. “There’s probably not a judge sitting who hasn’t second-guessed themselves when something bad happens.”
‘Frightening and disturbing’
Nelson’s crimes share a common theme. In nearly every one, he pointed a pistol at his victim’s head, and in most cases, he threatened to kill them if they didn’t turn over their valuables.
But he wasn’t your typical thug, court transcripts show.
In 2003, Nelson, just 21, was already a twice-convicted felon facing prison for five counts of first-degree aggravated robbery, one in which he put a gun to the head of a young mother consoling her frightened children. “Tell the kids I’m not going to kill them,” he told her. “I’m only going to kill their parents.”
In that case, he fired his lawyer and represented himself during a weeklong trial, grilling each victim called to testify against him.