The Buffalo Soldier Gate at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The Buffalo Soldier Gate at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes)

AUSTIN, Texas – A former Army captain on Thursday was found not guilty of killing another captain with whom she had been romantically involved after the two had a fight at an El Paso strip club, according to court records.

Clevy Muchette Nelson-Royster, 30, was charged with murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault but she was acquitted by a Texas jury after 18 hours of deliberations that spanned three days. Her trial began in El Paso County’s 210th District Court on Feb. 15.

She was accused of killing Capt. Malcolm X. Perry, a 27-year-old logistics officer from Virginia, who died in a fiery crash after the incident at the strip club.

About eight months after Nelson-Royster’s arrest, the Army discharged her, according to Brock Benjamin, her attorney. She also served as a logistics officer at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Perry was commander of Bravo Company of the 123rd Brigade Support Battalion, part of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, at the time of his death on Oct. 11, 2020.

His death in the early morning hours of a Sunday in El Paso followed a series of physical fights that began a strip club, moved to Perry’s apartment complex, and led to Perry being chased in his vehicle, according to court documents. Nelson-Royster was the passenger in the vehicle following Perry when he crashed, and a man named Richard Sennessie was driving.

Benjamin said he believes a lack of evidence from the crime scene is what led to the acquittal.

“A criminal jury trial is a state’s burden to prove, and the state just failed to prove it,” he said.

Benjamin also credits the verdict to the prosecutors’ decision not to charge Nelson-Royster with criminal negligent homicide, which is typically used in cases of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, distracted driving or a hit-and-run.

“If [the charge was] negligent homicide, I believe they would have convicted her,” he said.

Dana Perry, Malcom Perry’s mother, who attended the trial, also wished prosecutors had shown more evidence, particularly that Perry had been pursued during each fight that occurred that night.

“He did not go looking for any of this. It came to him,” she said.

Her son typically avoided confrontation, as he did that night, she said.

“He didn’t want to be confrontational in any means, fashion or form,” Dana Perry said. “He was a shy kid. … He loved living, and somebody just swiped it away from him, and got away with it.”

The two captains had been involved in an on-again-off-again relationship, according to court documents. Nelson-Royster confronted Perry that night at Jaguars, a strip club Perry was known to frequent since he arrived in El Paso in March. During the fight, she broke his eyeglasses.

Perry left in an Audi A4 sedan and went to his apartment complex. Nelson-Royster and Sennessie got into her Jeep Wrangler along with three other people, rammed through the gate to the complex and confronted Perry again in his car in the parking lot.

He managed to drive away and Nelson-Royster and Sennessie followed. Both vehicles eventually crashed, and Perry died after his vehicle caught fire.

During the chase, Perry called 911, which jurors heard.

“They are hitting my car. They’re bumping my car,” Perry said, according to court records. “I am going to die.”

Sennessie was offered a plea deal to testify against Nelson-Royster, but declined, according to court documents. He is scheduled to face a trial for a charge of murder in April. Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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