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Vigilante Mom Ellie Nesler Dies

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She shot her son's accused molester in court.

Ellie Nesler

Ellie Nesler, who sparked a national debate about vigilantism after killing her son's accused molester in a courtroom in 1993, has died of cancer. The 56-year-old had battled breast cancer since 1994.

Nesler shot Daniel Driver five times in the head during a break in his preliminary hearing in a Tuolumne County courtroom. Driver had been accused of molesting four boys, including her son Willy. She was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served three years of a 10-year sentence before winning an appeal based on jury misconduct.

The case became a 1999 TV movie, "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story."

If your son was molested, would you do what Ellie Nesler did?

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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
AnthonyIac December 29, 2008, 4:05 PM

I think taking a life is irresponsible. However, given the circumstances I can see how a human being can no longer act in society’s favor. Given what he did, I would not have killed him. He instead probably would’ve lost a lot of weight and a few toes.

Kara December 29, 2008, 6:36 PM

May she rest in peace. I think my own reaction might have been similiar. It’s not like she took the life of a person worth anything. How many times does the system screw up and these kinds of monsters walk free? She just made sure there was one less walking around. Yes, it sounds awful but it is the truth.

Crystal December 29, 2008, 7:08 PM


WHO are you to judge what a person is worth? So what if someone thinks you aren’t worth much and takes your life? Oh but that’s a different story because you’re so much better, right? Like you’ve never comitted a sin? Then you must be the second coming of Christ? OH wait…. that’s why you know his life wasn’t worth anything!!! Makes sense.

Anonymous December 29, 2008, 7:47 PM

Crystal, child sexual abuse is known to color the rest of the victim’s life in a very negative way. Feeling pity for the abuser is very difficult under the circumstances. I couldn’t kill anyone, I hope, but I do feel some sympathy and understanding for a person who loses it when her child has been damaged in this manner, so much of his promise and potential impeded or destroyed. May this devoted Mom rest in peace.

JustUs December 29, 2008, 8:08 PM

Ellie was justified. Period.

No need for Willy to feel guilt - for anything about the molestation OR the death of the molester. Ellie should never have even served one day in jail.
I feel sad for her son, because of the controversey and fact that he was separated from his Mom. I hope he is able to get counseling and take back his life.

Angela December 29, 2008, 8:09 PM

YES I WOULD. This man took her childs innocent life and those of the other children he molested. I would have done the exact same thing without a question in my mind. As a mother I would take the ultimate sacrafice for my kids, so theres no question in my mind when I heard about this story my first response was.”Right On”.

Angela December 29, 2008, 8:28 PM

My Ellie rest in Peace

Anonymous December 29, 2008, 8:29 PM

In 1993, people lined the streets and yelled, “GOOD SHOOTING ELLIE!”
She should have never had to serve one day of time for protecting her son from a perverted monster!!

R.I.P. Ellie.

Leatherneck1775 December 29, 2008, 8:43 PM

Our judicial system has lost sight of
just plain common sense in their rightful quest to be fair, RE: O.J. Simpson, He should be worm food right now, Yet the defense using the ‘race card’ all the way was able to free this piece of fecal matter! The ACLU is an
organization our founding fathers never counted on, I do not think that they envisioned an America so ignorant to the facts in a court of law. If the guy molested her son…Bravo for her!!! May God Bless her & may she rest in peace wich it seems she had little of!!!

Kathy December 29, 2008, 10:09 PM

May that poor woman rest in peace!

Angela, you hit the nail on the head.


Kara December 29, 2008, 10:20 PM

Crystal, I am in no position to judge most people as yes, I have done any number of things wrong in my life. But we are not talking about white lies or saying something unkind. We are talking about a child molester who was clearly only not molesting a child at that moment because he was CAUGHT. Who knows if he would have been convicted?? John Couey, for example, was a convicted child molester out living his life like he’d never hurt a soul when he abducted, raped and murdered Jessica Lunsford. These people are sick. They have problems that are not treatable. They do not get better or “scared straight” in jail. They are ALWAYS a potential threat to every child. I’m sorry you think I’m awful. I understand that when we start making blanket assumptions on anything we risk jumping head first onto a very slippery slope. But on this issue, I say jump.

Kirstie December 29, 2008, 10:30 PM

He deserved to rot in jail, but NO ONE has the authority to a life. She is not God and that is his job alone.

It’s immoral to stoop to his level and commit a crime.

michelle December 29, 2008, 11:38 PM

Good for Ellie, now he’s not around to molest mine or anyone else’s.

Jamin December 30, 2008, 8:48 AM

My grandaughter was molested at 5 years old by a man who had been convicted of sex crimes aganst children and received a 5 year sentence at OSP but our parole board let him out of prison after only 6 months because his mother was ill and dying! In less han a month he had molested 6 girls! These girls are messed up for life and the creep ended up getting another 65 months in prison! Where’s the justice for the victims who live in fear of when he gets out? I say do unto others fits here! Ellie should have shot his thing off and then he wouldn’t have anything to molest kids with!!She made the ultimate sacrifice for her son as any mother would do! To all you bleeding hearts out there who say it is wrong to take a life, that only God can do that, where was God while her son was being sodimized? Did God intend for this man to be a molester when he created him? Think about that! May she and her family get some peace now.

Anonymous December 30, 2008, 2:19 PM

I don’t think people here realize how many people have constant thoughts and attractions that are deemed inappropriate by society. Would you be surprised if there is a neighbor on your block who has had sexual fantasies about your child? Well, don’t be, because there probably is. But that doesn’t make that individual a scourge to society… I think many people are constantly dealing with inappropriate thoughts that we must hold back from and contain. Even you and I! And, yes, someone does occasionally put those thoughts into action, and most certainly regrets it later, whether caught or not. If Jamin thinks everyone who has an inappropriate thought should be executed, she may want to rethink that, because they may include friends and family members.

Noone deserves to be executed in the way Daniel Driver was - he’s merely a single individual who put inappropriate thoughts into action who deserved to be punished but also to be given counseling and direction and a chance to redeem himself.

Think about it - In ten years he may have become a great counselor to others who have similar struggles and thereby save this from happening to countless others. Perhaps by Ellie killing him she has actually caused more harm to come to many more children. Just a thought.

Kara December 30, 2008, 2:52 PM

Anonymous - thoughts and actions are two different things. The concept of sin is that a sin is something we want to do, something we think about doing. The interesting part is where we RESIST. Plenty of people resist the urge to do things they shouldn’t. This guy did not resist, he indulged. Repeatedly. This was not someone who was going to get “fixed” and then go on to help others. There is no fixing someone like this. They will hurt children whenever they can and never have a single regret. I have no pity for such empty and wasted lives. You propose she did more harm but that is laughable. She very likely saved any number of other kids from this awful abuse.

Kara December 30, 2008, 5:43 PM

I just read an article about her and her son. While I have not changed my stance on her murdering the person that molested her son I wonder if it made things worse for her and her son. Apparently she was later sent back to prison on drug charges and he eventually committed murder. I have to wonder if these things would have happened if her son had never been molested. The effects of a molesters actions linger long after the terrible ordeal is over. The victim lives with it forever and it changes everything. Would she have ended up in prison for drugs and him for murder if this hadn’t happened to her son? If she hadn’t shot the molester? Whatever the truth, I hope she is resting in peace now.

Jon December 30, 2008, 6:44 PM

Thank god she’s dead. I guess she got what she deserved; drug dealer, son a murderer; herself a killer. Never mind she never thought about the other innocent people she could have killed. And these people just don’t become child molesters; they become that way for a reason. Thanks to our sicko society for never addressing the root causes; so it continues. I’m a victim as well and thought she was garbage for what she did. She did nothing to help anyone.

Bob In Pacifica December 31, 2008, 10:07 AM

First off, Daniel Driver, the man accused of molesting her son, was never CONVICTED of anything. Second, the molestations allegedly happened at a Christian camp. Third, many if not most molesters were molested themselves as children.

Ellie Nesler did not suddenly become a folk hero. There was a life before the courtroom shooting. Packing up the family and going to South Africa to mine for gold during Apartheid at least suggests an insensitivity to race issues.

While molestation can color a person’s life (it usually causes depression and sometimes suicidal ideation), it generally doesn’t cause the kind of violent behavior Nesler’s son displayed, having been arrested around 20 times for drugs and violent acts before he stomped to death a disabled neighbor.

Nesler herself was doing time for manufacturing methamphetamines when her son killed his neighbor. Manufacturing speed, beyond its criminality, displays an acute lack of concern about the welfare of others.

In short, despite the grand display in the courtroom of putting five shots into the dome of an accused child molester, Nesler was a pretty lousy mother. She probably had been abused in some manner as a child, probably treated her children badly, and was responsible for spreading the misery around during her time on earth.

Kara December 31, 2008, 7:12 PM

Bob, the drugs, the violence - all that happened after Daniel Driver. So, using your very own logic, isn’t it possible all of those things were after shocks, so to speak? No, it doesn’t sound like she was much of a mom when she got out of jail the first time but maybe they were seriously struggling, needed some major help and did not get it. I would certainly cut her more slack than I would Daniel Driver.. Nesler’s son was not the only child he molested. No, no conviction of course. Would he have been? Who knows? But I am sure that the thought of him getting free and doing this again tortured her. The thought that he might hurt her son again if he got free must have burned at the edges of her mind.
As for how molestation can color the rest of a persons life, your list falls very short of the reality, trust me.

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