Marcus Lashun Nelson is praying.

Every day, the inmate at Wayne McCollum Detention Center says he’s praying for the recovery of an elderly woman who police say he assaulted and robbed Sept. 12.

Nelson has been in custody since the day after the 89-year-old - who remains hospitalized in critical condition - was found unconscious at her Ennis home.

Police indicate Nelson is one breath away from being charged with capital murder if the woman passes away from her injuries, which they said include a skull fracture.

Detective Sgt. Mike Hopson said the victim has regained some consciousness but is unable to speak with police yet. The Daily Light is not publishing Nelson’s book-in photo until after Hopson has had a chance to show the woman - whose name is not being released by police at the request of relatives - a photo lineup.

In a jailhouse interview with the Daily Light, Nelson said he was present during the attack, which he said was committed by a cousin and another friend.

“I was there. I know what happened,” he said. “I didn’t do it. I gave them (the police) everything. I told them everything. … I’ve been really trying to open my heart.”

Hopson said the investigation is ongoing, but said police believe at this time Nelson acted alone.

Nelson said police have targeted him because of prior juvenile trouble and a felony burglary conviction that saw his release from prison about eight months ago after serving a five-year sentence.

“I used to do bad,” he said, saying since his release he’s been working and trying to help family members.

Nelson said he, his cousin and the friend were out walking, saw the woman at her residence near the junior high and went up to her front yard to talk with her.

“They lied when they said they weren’t there,” he said. “They’re acting like they didn’t do anything.”

The attack

Nelson describes the attack in detail and says his cousin was the one who wrapped a small concrete yard ornament - a rabbit - in a towel before striking the woman twice in the forehead with it, knocking her down in her home.

“I was telling him (the cousin), ‘Don’t hurt her, don’t hurt her, you fool,’ ” Nelson said, saying of his relative, “He’s crazy. He’ll try to hurt someone. Me? I’m not down for killing somebody.”

Nelson said police have told him DNA links him to the scene - and he agrees his DNA will be found on a drinking glass and other places inside the home.

“She brought (the cousin) a glass of water, but I’m the one who drank it,” Nelson said. “My DNA’s on the telephone because I was trying to call my family to get me out of there. … She had a cane she was trying to defend herself with and I picked the cane up.”

Nelson acknowledges he left the woman there without seeking any aid on her behalf. And he said he knows he may be held accountable for that lack of action.

He also acknowledges he had a piece of the woman’s jewelry in his pocket when taken into custody by police.

It was his cousin who gave him the jewelry, with Nelson saying he had wanted to return it to the woman, and it was his cousin who went around bragging about the crime, Nelson said, saying he only ran from police when he saw them because “I panicked.”

Regrets not helping

Nelson said he wishes now he had tried to help the woman, but insists he couldn’t do so at the time because of a fear of retaliation from “his homeboys” which he said he had “no choice but to be with them.”

He said he felt a conflict, however, as the woman lay bleeding on the floor, calling out for help.

“I pray daily for that lady, every day … (but) it’s hard to turn your back on gang members. If you turn your back … ,” Nelson’s voice trailed off before noting, “When something like that happens, you’re not thinking.”

He regrets not helping the woman and said God has been talking to him through his dreams about the lesson he needs to take away from the situation.

He said God has told him he shouldn’t have walked away and has asked him, “Wouldn’t you want someone to have called for help for you?”

“I had to answer him back, ‘Dang it, man, you got me,’ ” Nelson said, saying the Lord is working with him “so I don’t make the same mistake again.

“I asked him, ‘Lord, forgive me,’ and he said, ‘I forgive you but I never can forget. … I told him, ‘God, I was with my homeboys. I wanted to do something but I couldn’t.”

He said he’s leaving everything in God’s hands.

“There’s only one judge and he’s the man upstairs,” he said. “He sees everything that’s happening 24/7. He knows what happened.”

Prior conviction

Nelson previously served five years in prison on a burglary charge.

“I was trying to feed my family. I was trying to support them,” he said. “I did what I had to do. … I was a street boy.”

He said his stint in prison taught him to be independent - and to know right from wrong.

But it hasn’t been easy since he was released, with Nelson saying he’s been trying to make it and do right. A person doesn’t leave prison with much of anything to help toward the future, he said, noting an inmate is handed $100, a pair of blue jeans and T-shirt and a bus ticket to wherever.

In Nelson’s case, he caught a bus to Dallas — and then had to pay $65 to take a cab home to Ennis.

In the eight months since, he’d worked part-time at a local manufacturer, signed on with a temporary employment agency, caught a couple of day jobs and was trying to land full-time work as a janitor with a nursing home.

“I had started getting on my feet and was helping my family,” he said, saying he was staying with different relatives and still looking for a full-time position when the incident happened.

It’s just hard to avoid the gangs - “You have to reject them every day,” the self-described “street boy” said, saying life where he lived meant getting into fights on an almost daily basis.

Although he said prison had taught him to be independent and to know right from wrong - and he was trying to live his life in a “godly manner” - in the end, he said, “My faith wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t move (to help the woman).”

He said he’s been touched, however, by what he describes as “ godliness.”

“It’s something emotional, something to do with this lady,” he said. “Sometimes the Lord touches them and through them, it touches you.”

Sincere concern

His concern for the woman’s wellbeing is sincere, he said, saying he wants to clear up a misconception people have after seeing his inmate ID badge.

Pointing to his book-in photo, he said, “People are asking me why I’m smiling - it’s because the officer made a joke right when they took the photo and I was laughing at him.”

He’s yet to be contacted by the attorney his family has told him will represent him, but he said he’s hoping for the best when his case gets to the courtroom.

He’s also content to remain behind bars until the issue is resolved, saying, “I feel safer in jail than out.”

When everything is over with, he intends to pursue his dream of opening his own car repair business, with perhaps a small car lot on the side.

“I’m pretty good at working on cars,” he said.

In the meantime, he said his family stands in support of him.

“They’ve told me, ‘We know you didn’t do it,’ ” he said.

E-mail JoAnn at editor@waxahachiedailylight.com