Westerly man sentenced to life in prison for 2018 murder

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Westerly man was sentenced in Washington County Superior Court to life in prison after pleading to committing the 2018 murder of Jeremy Lehmann in Westerly.


Nelson Dearce (age 54) entered a plea of nolo contendere to second-degree murder and domestic assault with a dangerous weapon.


At a hearing on March 7, 2022, before Superior Court Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg, the Court sentenced the defendant to life at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI).


The case against the defendant was initially tried in May 2021, ending in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case. Since then, the State remained prepared to retry the defendant for murder. During this time, the defendant was held at the ACI without bail.


“In 2018, this defendant brutally took Mr. Lehman’s life in a senseless act of domestic rage and jealously. While nothing can bring Mr. Lehman back to his family, or ease his family’s sense of loss, it is my hope that this entirely appropriate sentence of life in prison will bring his family a measure of justice,” said Attorney General Neronha. “I am grateful to Chief Lacey and the men and women of the Westerly Police Department for their excellent work during the investigation and prosecution of this case.”


Had this case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on January 28, 2018, the defendant stabbed Jeremy Lehmann to death during a domestic incident at a home the defendant shared with his estranged partner in Westerly.


Prior to the day of the murder, the defendant separated from his long-term partner, who is also the mother of their four young children. The two continued to live together, while separated, at the home on Bowling Lane in Westerly.


While the two continued to live together, the defendant’s estranged partner began a romantic relationship with Mr. Lehmann.


On the day of the murder, the defendant returned early from work and discovered Mr. Lehmann in the home and proceeded to corner him in a first-floor bathroom. The defendant then forced his way into the bathroom and stabbed and slashed Mr. Lehmann 57 times with a knife.


The defendant exited the bathroom and confronted his estranged partner, telling her, “I killed him, I should have killed you.” The defendant then returned to the bathroom and stabbed Mr. Lehmann two additional times.


Rescue personnel transported Mr. Lehmann to Yale New Haven Hospital in Westerly, where he was pronounced dead.


Assistant Attorney General Mark Trovato of the Office of the Attorney General and Lieutenant John Riley of the Westerly Police Department led the investigation and prosecution of the case.