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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Mona Nelson Blow Torch Murder Case

     In April 2010, 44-year-old Angela, the mother of an 11-year-old boy from a previous relationship, married David Davis. Angela's son, a red-headed fifth-grader named Jonathan Foster, lived with his paternal grandmother. In November 2010, the child moved into the Houston, Texas duplex with his mother and new stepfather.

    When he drank, David Davis became violent. One of his assaults sent Angela to the hospital. On December 14, 2010, after Mr. Davis slapped his stepson in the face, Angela and Jonathan moved a hundred feet away into the apartment of a woman who had befriended Angela.

     In the early afternoon of December 24, 2010, a woman who referred to herself as Jonathan's babysitter, spoke on the telephone to one of Angela's co-workers at a meat market where she was employed as a cashier. The woman said she wanted to speak to Angela. The co-worker passed the message on to Angela who said she didn't have a babysitter. Angela called the number and a woman answered the phone. Just before the line went dead, Angela heard her son's voice. She rushed home to check on Jonathan. He was not in the apartment. Fearing foul play, Angela called 911 and reported her son missing.

     Detectives with the Houston Police Department, from the beginning, treated the case as a possible kidnapping. The police, suspecting Angela's estranged husband David, questioned him closely. David Davis said he had checked on Jonathan just 25 minutes before Angela came home and found him missing. At that time, the boy was playing a video game. "There's no doubt in my mind that he's been snatched," the stepfather said. "I think a pedophile took him."

     As investigators questioned other family members, neighbors and volunteers handed out fliers. Angela faced a television camera and said this to the abductor: "Don't hurt my baby." On the possibility that Jonathan had been kidnapped by a stranger, detectives questioned fifty registered sex offenders in the northwest Houston area.

     On December 28, 2010, four days after Jonathan went missing, a Houston Police Department's K-9 unit recovery dog detected what turned out to be the boy's badly charred remains. (Jonathan Foster had to be identified by dental records.) The body, bound with twine, had been dumped into a ditch four miles from his residence. Near the corpse detectives found a welder's torch.

     Surveillance camera footage from a building near Jonathan's body showed a silver Ford pickup truck pulling up to the site at six o'clock that Christmas eve. A black woman got out of the vehicle, reached into the bed, took out what appeared to be a body, and placed it into the ditch.

     Detectives quickly identified the woman in the truck as 44-year-old Mona Yvette Nelson, an acquaintance of the woman who had been sharing her apartment with Angela and Jonathan. Two weeks earlier, Mona had met David Davis, the boy's stepfather. According to witnesses, Mona Nelson had been seen recently in the vicinity of the murdered child's home.

     As a maintenance employee, Nelson had worked with acetylene torches and various types of welding equipment. A former boxer, she had been convicted in 1984 of aggravated robbery which brought her a ten-year probated sentence. Nelson had since been arrested for various drug charges and for making terroristic threats against another woman. The suspect owned a truck that looked like the silver Ford driven by the woman seen on surveillance tapes dumping the body into the ditch.

     On December 30, 2011, at a press conference, a spokesperson for the Houston Police Department announced that Mona Nelson, charged with capital murder, had been arrested for Jonathan Foster's death. Having been denied bond, the suspect was incarcerated in the Harris County Jail. In a search of her northwest Houston residence detectives found twine similar to the cordage found on Jonathan's body. Officers also recovered an acetylene tank used in welding. Sections of Nelson's carpet had been recently burned.

     According to the police spokesperson, Nelson, under police questioning, had admitted dumping Jonathan's body in the ditch. The suspect had not, however, confessed to murdering the boy.

     The day after Nelson's arrest, a local television reporter interviewed her at the Harris County Jail. Nelson told the correspondent that one of Jonathan's family members, on Christmas Eve, had asked her to dump the contents of a garbage container. The unnamed relative paid her twenty dollars for the job. She had been drunk on vodka and had no idea what was in the plastic container. "I didn't know what was in it until they were showing me pictures in the interrogation room. I'm not a monster," she said, "I have five grandkids and I love kids."

     Houston homicide detective Mike Miller, in response to Nelson's statements to the TV reporter, pointed out that Jonathan's body had not been found in a container. In describing the murder suspect, Detective Miller said, "She is a cold soul-less murderer who showed an absolute lack of remorse in taking the life of Jonathan Foster. There's only been one or two people I've ever talked to that had eyes like she did. It was really cold." Detective Miller said that all of the victim's family members, including his stepfather David Davis, had solid alibis. Mona Nelson had acted on her own, he said.

     On Monday, January 3, 2011, Mona Nelson appeared before a judge who asked her if she understood her rights. She said that she did. The judge appointed Nelson an attorney, informed her of the charge, and sent her back to jail. A month later, Harris County prosecutor Connie Spence presented the case to a grand jury that returned a true bill of capital murder.

     The Nelson murder trial got underway on Monday, August 12, 2013 before district judge Jeannine Barr. The defendant had waived her right to a jury trial, putting her fate entirely in the hands of this judge. Nelson's attorney, Alan Tanner, before the opening statements and presentation of witnesses, asked Judge Barr to quash five recorded statements his client had made to detectives over a stretch of seventeen hours at her home and at the police station. According to the defense attorney, the interrogators continued to question Nelson after she complained a dozen times of being ill. The officers did not address Nelson's health complaints until after the interrogation. (Detectives took her to a nearby hospital where doctors found nothing wrong with her.)

     On Tuesday, August 13, Mona Nelson, pursuant to the procedural law question regarding the admissibility of her police statements, testified that her interrogators had worn her down. Although she asked to consult with an attorney a dozen times, the questioning continued. Attorney Tanner argued that the interrogating officers had violated his client's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He also asserted that her statements had not been given voluntarily and were therefore inadmissible in court.

     Judge Barr, later that afternoon, made her evidentiary ruling. She excluded the statements Nelson made after she had requested to see a lawyer. Since these requests came late in the interrogation session, most of her statements were admissible.

     In her opening remarks before Judge Barr, prosecutor Spence admitted that the state would not be establishing a motive for Jonathan's murder. (While prosecutors prefer to have motive evidence, it is not a legal requirement for a murder conviction. All the state has to prove is criminal intent. In substantive law, the why is not relevant.) The prosecutor promised the judge that she would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mona Nelson, sometime between 2:15 and 6:08 PM on December 24, 2010, tortured and killed the 11-year-old Foster boy with a blowtorch at her home, then dumped his charred remains in a ditch. Spence said that one of the key pieces of evidence she would introduce involved Jonathan's sweat shirt found in a trash can near the defendant's house. The garment bore traces of Nelson's blood.

     Defense attorney Tanner reminded the judge that just because his client had dumped the boy's body in the ditch didn't necessary mean that she had killed him. In foreshadowing the thrust of his defense, Tanner cast suspicion on the victim's stepdad, David Davis. According to the defense attorney, the boy had come between Davis and his estranged wife which may have been the motive behind the murder. All Mona Nelson did was dispose of the contents of a garbage can that had been given to her.

     The victim's mother took the stand as the state's first witness. She was followed by several detectives who testified about the physical evidence they had recovered from Nelson's home and how it related to the evidence found near Jonathan Foster's charred corpse. David Davis, the stepfather, took the stand and admitted that he had hit the victim's mother. He said he had never harmed the boy. Through direct examination, prosecutor Spence established the witness' whereabouts at the time of the abduction and the murder.

     Lois Sims, the supervisor at the meat market who took the phone call for Angela Davis on the afternoon of December 24, 2010, described the caller as an angry, foul-mouthed woman. The caller wanted the telephone number of the woman leasing the duplex where Davis and her son were staying. "If you don't get her on the phone now, something's going to happen. He [Jonathan] won't be here for long."

     Defense attorney Tanner pointed out that the two meat market supervisors had described the caller as a white woman.

     On August  19, 2013, two Houston Police Department K-9 officers testified that three cadaver dogs had reacted strongly to a box of burned carpeting at Nelson's house. One of the witnesses said, "There was a strong odor of human remains there. An arborist (tree expert) testified that leaves at the dump site had come from oak trees. There were no such trees where Jonathan's body had been recovered, but around Nelson's house, there were seven trees of this kind.

     The prosecutor played a videotaped statement from Nelson in which she admitted being at the place where Jonathan's body had been dumped. She said she had emptied a garbage container at the site. She said she didn't know the contents of the plastic container.

     The following day, a forensic scientist from the FBI Crime Laboratory testified that a Looney Tunes sweatshirt that belonged to Jonathan, recovered from the defendants trash can, contained Nelson's blood and DNA. Two other DNA experts agreed with this analysis. The presence of this trace evidence on the sweatshirt suggested that the victim had put up a fight.

     On Friday morning, August 23, the prosecution rested its case. Allen Tanner launched his client's defense with the testimony of a woman who gave Mona Nelson an alibi. Following the testimony of two other witnesses, the defense rested its case. Mona Nelson did not take the stand on her own behalf.

     The next day, defense attorney Allen Tanner delivered his closing argument to the judge. "Mona Nelson," he said, "had absolutely no motive to kill Jonathan Foster. They searched and searched for a motive and there's no reason why she would have killed that boy." In referring to David Davis, the estranged husband, Tanner said, "He wanted to get her back and he told people at work that Jonathan is the root of all his problems....The [prosecution's] case got weaker and weaker....There are more and more unanswered questions now than there were at the beginning. The evidence is clear there could be people who committed this crime and we have no idea at this time who they are."

     When it came her turn to address the judge, prosecutor Spence said, "This defendant took Jonathan Foster back to her house and killed him. We'll never know how she killed him because she burned his body to the point where you can't tell."

     On Monday morning, August 26, 2013, Judge Jeannine Barr found Mona Nelson guilty as charged. She imposed the automatic sentence of life without parole. After hearing the verdict, Nelson said, "I'm innocent, and I maintain my innocence. I wouldn't harm anybody."

     Defense attorney Allen Tanner told reporters he would file an appeal on the grounds of insufficient evidence. "We believe someone else kidnapped this child and someone else killed this child."

     On March 19, 2015, a three-judge panel on the Fourth District Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the Mona Nelson capital murder conviction.
   

   


37 comments:

  1. "Just like us" indeed.

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  2. I also believe that Mona Nelson is innocent. What is the motive ? Who paid her $20 to empty the trash ? Why isn't that part of the court room hearings. I think the step father did it...or something more sinister happened.

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    1. No one paid her to empty the trash. It's called a lie. She was lying.

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    2. You make me sick, "what is the motive?" THE MOTIVE IS HATE YOU MORON! They have her dead to rights, did you even read the article? Lib tards like you is why crimes like this go un-reported.

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    3. Good!! Let her sit behind bars! This makes me sick! Poor little boy. And on Christmas eve! People are heartless.

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    4. Maags, you're clearly an idiot that can't tell when someone is trying to lie their way out of a corner. "I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing or who told me to" is a classic cop out. If the twine, torch, carpet burns, and oak leaves weren't enough for you then the boy's sweatshirt found in her trash can with her blood on it should. She was likely attempting to get ransom money and realized it wouldn't work so she killed him to try to cover her ass!

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    5. Amazing how whenever a woman is on trial, if they can divert blame on a man they will. And Maags comment proves people will buy it.

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    6. It said their was no trash can on the tape.

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    7. Maags, you are the dumbest piece of ****

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    8. I don't think she was trying to get ransom money, the mother worked at a meat market. However add ess probably on some type of drugs and lost her mind. However if she didn't do this she clearly participated.

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    9. Please who is that stupd to believe her story. She killed the boy and now she is paying for it . GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    10. I can hardly stand to think of what this boy may have gone though before he died. It's unimaginable. How can any human being be so cruel?

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    11. Yes, it haunts me to this day to think about it. He was, by all description, a kind and sweet soul who only wanted to be with his mother after all these years. He sat in the living room on Christmas eve with all his presents under the tree so excited for his mom to come home from work and to have his first Christmas with her....it was to be a dream come true. I question God here. This is a cruelty and a tragedy of unspeakable proportion against the most innocent of victims. Perhaps he was your lamb?

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    12. Mona guilty. It was do much evidence found in her home. The torch she used the twine was all found in her home. The burn marks etc. I lived in Houston when all this happen I was in jail with Mona. Mona guilty as charged n deserved the death peantly

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    13. Mona guilty. It was do much evidence found in her home. The torch she used the twine was all found in her home. The burn marks etc. I lived in Houston when all this happen I was in jail with Mona. Mona guilty as charged n deserved the death peantly

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  3. The death sentence should have been invoked on this case .
    We the people should not have to pay for trash like this to live in jail for the rest of her life .

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    1. Actually, it will cost less to incarcerate this criminal for the rest of her life than to go through the numerous appeals on the way to the death chamber. This is saving you money.

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    2. Not even a little true. The appeals will all still be put through, and since she's using a state appointed attorney, they will take just as long and cost the taxpayers just as much as if she had been sentenced to death. It costs tens of thousands of dollars per year to house an inmate. It costs about $84 for the drugs to kill them.

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    3. Fewer appeals are required by law for prisoners who are incarcerated for life because so long as they live a mistake might eventually be corrected. Death row inmates get many more because a mistake might be corrected too late (something you'd probably be appreciative of if you were ever falsely convicted and it does happen).

      The studies have been done, and it's pretty clear that life incarceration is way more cost effective in the long run. Also, if your goal is retributory (which is a terrible thing if you actually want justice served, btw) then it's far more punishing to have someone live the rest of their life knowing that they're trapped in a box than to just kill them. That actually seems like an easy way out.

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    4. More nonsense.

      What's most cost effective is for Nelson to get stabbed by some other prisoner who resembles a human being enough to be offended by her actions.

      The only alternative to a good healthy shanking, is serious prison reform so that subhumans like her who should ride the lightning, ride the lightning as soon as possible, without any bullshit appeals.

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  4. I would love for someone to burn her with a blow torch, its so sad how sick people are. That poor chil probably suffered so bad, I just hope he wasn't alive while she was burning him!1

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    1. There is a sad sickness to your comment that you would wish the same ill on this criminal. The higher road would be to wish remorse and even redemption, as I pray for both of you.

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    2. The fact that you exist is a symbol that this society is sick.

      You shouldn't be allowed to vote, and if you continue to do so and in doing so enable predators like Nelson, you should be burnt with a blow torch for enabling them.

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    3. According to forensic reports, there was no soot in his lungs which means he was likely already dead when she used the blow torch. She also stunned him with a stun gun. He must have wondered where God was.

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  5. You know if people claim to be so innocent why don't they just take a lie detector test and prove it.

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    1. B/c lie detector tests are inadmissible in most courtrooms. Der.

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  6. Lie detector tests don't necessarily prove anything, seeing as how they monitor your hearts reactions. .. If you're just nervous or unnervingly calm, it can be tricked.

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    1. Rogie that.

      Especially in the case of sociopaths like Nelson, and her enablers.

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  7. If this were my child I would want the same done to this useless waste of flesh and oxygen. I would want her burned and kept alive to live incarcerated in as much misery as humanly possible... With the knowledge that she would eventually burn in hell as well... I don't care what any of you jackasses say. Put in that position you would want retribution as well...

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  8. How can you write such a detailed article and never mention that the little boy was white and the killer white? How can you never mention that the little boy was tortured by being slowly burned to death with a welders blowtorch? If the races were reversed this would hav been and still be headline news.

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    1. Umm I don't know if you're color blind but Nelson is NOT white. It clearly states she's black. "A black woman got out of the vehicle, reached into the bed, took out what appeared to be a body, and placed it into the ditch." So I really don't get where you're getting that she's white from that clear statement.

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    2. Jeez, it's pretty obvious saying she was white was a mistake on their part if you bothered to think.

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    3. Where did you get the information that he was slowly tortured to death with a blow torch?

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  9. At age 44 the convicted murderess who is likely a bona fide psychopath [someone genetically lacking emotional capacity other than fits of anger/rage when frustrated, a condition that entails a predatory, intra-special predator, mendacious and highly manipulative personality] must have left a history with a trail of her victims of abuse of some kind in her past that would be greater than any criminal record there may be. I have seen nothing about her past; of her family, her parents and siblings,her marriages & children; her education & employment history. Psychopaths can readily pass lie-detector questioning as lie-detectors rely on emotional reactions from the subjects, albeit imperceptible to viewers but with a physiological internal dynamic that the lie-detector picks up as electrical activity variations. Clearly, Mona Nelson, if that is her real name, is a low-hanging fruit even now for some ambitious investigative journalist or other researcher as there is likely an untold tale waiting to be discovered about the life of the woman called "Mona Nelson".

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    1. I knew mona. Yes she has in the past been aggressive, abusive, struggled with drugs, and been mentally instable. I would honestly not be surprised if she is guilty. However, Im not sold on her guilt in this case simply because when this story broke i found a picture on the internet of her walking along side i believe it was the mayor of houston. Its possible she did some dirty work for someone and then was framed...but all that aside, this is one sad tragedy.

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  10. This was a terrible case... I just turned 20yo and I followed this case when it was shown on Casey B Anthony show.... I cried my freaking eyes out

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  11. I'm not sure where you got some of your information on this story but being I am his aunt that raised him for 4 years of his life and had to live this nightmare let me clear a few things up for you. First off his mother Angela is not 44, she is not even 40 yet. David Davis was never his step father, Jonathan lived in his house for 3 weeks before he hit him. He was a man his mother just so happened to marry, one of the lets see like 7 men she has married. A k-9 is not who found Jonathan, a passerby was the one who spotted something suspicious in the culvert. Also Jonathan was 12 when he was murdered, he would now be 18 as of 2 days ago.

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