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Ex-Las Vegas police officer sentenced to prison for 1997 killing

Updated January 3, 2023 - 2:09 pm

For decades, Marie Coker spent sleepless nights terrified over the fact that her sister’s killer had not been found.

But during a court hearing on Tuesday, more than 25 years after her sister’s body was discovered at a construction site in Las Vegas, Coker watched as 56-year-old former police officer Arthur Sewall Jr. was sentenced to prison for her sister’s killing.

“Since Mr. Sewall’s arrest in 2018, I have finally been able to sleep. The nightmares have stopped,” Coker told District Judge Carli Kierny. “Knowing he is finally taken off the streets and not able to hurt anyone else has gave my soul the rest it has longed for since 1997.”

Sewall pleaded guilty in November to voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon for fatally shooting 20-year-old Nadia Iverson, whose body was found on May 8, 1997, near Washington Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Kierny sentenced Sewall to between six and 15 years behind bars for the killing — a penalty Sewall agreed to as part of his guilty plea. He did not give a statement to the judge on Tuesday.

“I hope this conviction can give your whole family some peace, and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get to this point,” Kierny told Iverson’s family before she announced the sentence.

Defense attorney Christopher Oram said Tuesday that Sewall did not plead guilty to a murder charge because of issues with the evidence in the case. After his arrest in 2018, Sewall faced charges of sexual assault and murder with a deadly weapon, although a grand jury failed to indict him on the sexual assault charge.

Police had linked Sewall to the killing through DNA evidence from a rape kit that was sent for testing in March 2016. He later told police that he paid Iverson for sex, and evidence at the scene and Iverson’s injuries suggested she was shot while being sexually assaulted from behind, according to Sewall’s arrest warrant.

Sewall joined the Metropolitan Police Department as a corrections officer in 1990, and he became a police officer in 1992, police have said. Sewall was arrested in February 1997, a few months before Iverson was killed, and was accused of forcing women to perform sex acts while he was on duty.

He resigned from Metro two months before Iverson’s killing and was sentenced in 1999 to five years of probation after pleading guilty to two counts of oppression under color of law.

Although Coker told the judge she was relying on her faith to try and forgive Sewall, she voiced anger at the man’s actions and the “horrific crime.”

“He was called to serve and protect when he was chosen to be a police officer. The only person he chose to serve was himself,” she said.

Iverson grew up in the single-stoplight town of Pittsville, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles north of Pittsburgh. She left the town after a breakup and had been staying in Las Vegas for two months before she was killed, Coker said.

Coker, who wore a shirt during Tuesday’s court hearing reading “Justice for Nadia,” described her sister as a compassionate woman who “marched to her own beat.”

Iverson’s mother, Judy Buchanan, wrote a statement to the judge that her daughter read during the hearing. In the statement, Buchanan wrote that Iverson loved spending time outdoors with her siblings growing up and that she was known to bring calm and joy to any room.

“What this man did to my daughter has destroyed my whole family. This man has devastated our lives forever,” Coker said while reading her mother’s statement.

After the hearing, Coker said she wants to see police handle rape kits better and said her family was not aware that a rape kit had been collected until Sewall was arrested in 2018. She said her family was disappointed in the low sentence that resulted from the plea negotiations.

“It’s beyond frustrating because this is murder,” she said. “This is a man who preyed on women.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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