New details revealed in 12-year-old boy's death

December 30, 2010 8:43:00 PM PST
We have new details about the arrest of a woman accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston boy. At a news conference Thursday afternoon, police revealed more about the abduction and murder of a young boy on Christmas Eve. Investigators describe Mona Nelson, the suspect in the murder of 12-year old Jonathan Foster, as a "cold, soulless murderer," and as bizarre and a predator.

Seasoned Houston police homicide investigators say they are shaken up over the case of the abduction and murder of Jonathan.

"There are few cases that impact homicide detectives -- this is one of them," said Detective Mike Miller of HPD Homicide.

Jonathan Foster disappeared on Christmas Eve day and we learned this afternoon that he was killed and his body dumped on that very same day.

What police say about 44-year-old Mona Nelson is disturbing. Det. Miller, who interviewed Nelson, held back tears as he described her.

"She is a cold, soulless murderer who showed an absolute lack of remorse in taking the life of Jonathan Foster," Det. Miller said. "She decided when the time was right and she swooped down and took him when she saw the time was right, and she saw an opportune moment."

That moment, say authorities, was Christmas Eve when Jonathan was home alone. Authorities say Nelson admitted to dumping Jonathan's badly burned body Christmas Eve in northeast Houston off of East Hardy, but she has not admitted to killing the child.

It was surveillance cameras where Jonathan's body was found in northeast Houston that gave investigators their break. HPD Captain David Gott said around 6pm Christmas Eve, surveillance video showed a silver truck pull up to a ditch outside of a building on East Hardy. A person can be seen getting out of the truck, taking a body out of the bed of the truck and placing it in on the ground.

That person was recognized by neighbors and family as Nelson. Capt. Gott said Nelson drives a similar truck.

"The fire department has dogs that can detect accelerants such as fuel and that was not found on Jonathan. We don't know how he was burned; Mona was a welder," said Capt. Gott.

That same day, authorities searched her apartment.

"We stumbled into a wealth of evidence that showed Jonathan's body was burned at the resdience, evidence that shows perhaps the tools he was burned with," said Det. Miller.

Torches and other welding tools were found inside Nelson's northwest Houston home. Authorities beleive Jonathan was taken there, killed and burned beyond recognition the same day within hours. Twine used to tie Jonathan was also found inside Nelson's home. His body laid in the culvert through the Christmas holiday until he was discovered on Tuesday.

The horrible details were too much for several detectives who struggled to keep from crying.

"I've worked in Homicide Division 14 years and this is the worst case I've been a part of -- an innocent 12 year old who everybody says was happy, outgoing and well-liked by everyone in the neighborhood. It's an absolute tragedy," said Det. Miller.

Jonathan's mother, Angela Davis, did not comment about Nelson when we saw her today at a makeshift memorial near Jonathan's apartment. A next door neighbor gave a chilling statement, saying Nelson was there while Jonathan's family was looking for him on Christmas Eve.

"Yeah, she was just sitting there, looking at what was going on," said neighbor Rita Jackson.

Authorities say Nelson is a maintenance worker who works with tools and torches.

Jonathan's body was identified Wednesday by his dental records. A cause of death has not been released.

Police also said they believe Nelson is a a predator who has done this before and that they don't believe her brutality begins with Jonathan.

Police still don't have a motive yet and say Nelson acted alone. Nelson, 44, is being held at the Harris County Jail with no bond.

Authorities will look at other cases now of missing children. They ask anyone with information about Nelson to contact Houston police.

Nelson charged with murder

A judge in probable cause court heard the case against Mona Nelson, 44, Thursday morning. She's accused of killing fifth-grader Jonathan Foster, who disappeared on Christmas Eve. Nelson wasn't present this morning due to an unspecified medical issue.

Nelson is believed to be a friend to Jonathan's babysitter, who is also his mother's roommate. When asked about Nelson Wednesday, the boy's mother had this response.

"I need my time and my space to make my calls to do what I can to brainstorm to find out who this person is; this person that took my son," said Jonathan's mother, Angela Davis.

Davis appears to have briefly met Nelson once or so in recent weeks. In the past two days though, Davis has been meeting with police telling them of a strange phone call she received the day of her son's disappearance. Detectives, according to the probable cause evidence, believe Nelson made that call.

"She made threatening remarks towards her son. Also, a witness observed a female arriving at the residence in a gray or silver pickup about the same time those threatening calls were made," read a prosecutor during the probable cause hearing.

In the end, it was a building security camera image that captured a Ford pickup beside a drainage ditch and a person dumping what turned out to be the boy's body that sealed Nelson's arrest.

There was also evidence police say that was recovered from her apartment; burned carpet and ties consistent with that found on Foster's body. In the end, police allege there were Nelson's own words.

"The defendant who admitted being the driver of the vehicle who discarded the complainant in the ditch after he was killed," said the prosecutor.

Boy's uncle was worried about him

On Wednesday, Nelson spent hours at HPD headquarters downtown being questioned by police. Investigators told us she admitted to being with Jonathan, but that she does not admit to killing him. Nelson has been charged with capital murder and is in custody with no bond.

Police told us that the results of an autopsy Wednesday revealed that a burned body found Tuesday morning about five miles away from the family apartment on North Shepherd and 43rd Street was identified as Jonathan.

Jonathan's mother spent Wednesday holed up in the tiny apartment where her son was last seen, only emerging to let her dog out. Earlier in the day, she was clearly frustrated.

"It breaks my heart that my baby is out there. I don't know if he eats. I don't know if he's sleeping, I don't know if someone has hurt him; I don't know," said Angela Davis. "But y'all get out there, y'all get it out there and put it on the news as much as you can to find my baby. You're not going to find him here with me."

Davis denies knowing Mona Nelson for more than a few days. Nelson has been charged with capital murder. Police believe she kidnapped and killed the 12-year-old boy on Christmas Eve, then dumped his badly burned body in a ditch in northeast Houston. The 5th grader from Durham Elementary had barely gotten to know the neighborhood. He had just moved back in with his mother a few weeks ago.

We spoke to Jonathan's uncle in Missouri by phone. When we asked him if he feared for Jonathan's safety, Glenn Scrimsher replied, "At some points, yes, but I was hoping with my mom close by that no harm would befall him."

For four years, Jonathan lived with Scrimsher, his wife and their five children on their farm in Missouri.

"Jonathan was a wonderful kid. He was like my son," said Scrimsher.

He says though Jonathan was a little behind for his age, he thrived with his family. At 6 years old, they took him in, off his mother's hands.

When we asked him how Jonathan's mother was not capable, Scrimsher said, "Narcotics, drugs, alcohol; just wasn't fit to take care of him," said Scrimsher.

In November 2009, Jonathan returned to Texas to live with his grandmother. It was not his uncle's decision. He did not know the boy was living with his sister again. He says he has never heard of Mona Nelson, but for a year he has not been at ease.

"All I can say is that I don't think he was in a good place to begin with," Scrimsher said.

Police told us Nelson is an acquaintance of the roommate of Jonathan's mother and that evidence on Jonathan's body linked Nelson to the crime. However, police have not revealed the motive in this case.

Jonathan's uncle is still critical of the fact that an Amber Alert was not issued immediately. The Houston Police Department defends its decision.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest details on this story.


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