Woman charged in boy's murder speaks out

December 31, 2010 4:46:42 PM PST
Police released more details in their case against Mona Nelson, the woman charged with kidnapping and killing Jonathan Foster, and they say the 12-year-old boy may not be her only victim. We now know Jonathan's body was burned and dumped on the same day he disappeared, Christmas Eve, and just miles from where he was last seen in north Houston. Investigators say Nelson is responsible for it all, but Nelson told us a very different story.

Nelson is charged with capital murder, a crime that carries a potential punishment of death if convicted.

As she wiped away tears, she told us her side of the story.

Jonathan's mother did not comment about her son, his murder or the woman accused of murdering him today, but Houston police did.

"She is a cold, soulless murderer who showed an absolute lack of remorse in taking the life of Jonathan Foster," said HPD Homicide Detective Mike Miller.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, homicide detectives were very descriptive when talking about 44-year-old Mona Nelson.

"There's only been one or two people I've ever talked to that had eyes like she did; it was pretty cold," said Det. Miller.

Sitting in jail, her mood had changed.

"She was very remorseful. Was it an act? I don't think it all was an act," said activist Quannell X.

This afternoon, Quanell X counseled Nelson and that's when we spoke to her, too.

"I'm not a monster. I have five grandkids and I love kids," Nelson said.

From behind bars on the fourth floor of the jail, Nelson gave her side, telling us one of Jonathan's family members stopped her Christmas Eve outside his Oak Street home and asked her to dump a plastic container. She said he paid her $20, and she didn't know what was inside because she was drunk on vodka.

She told us she randomly chose a ditch in northeast Houston because she said, "I was basically just drunk and driving and listening to music."

"I didn't know what was in it until they were showing me pictures in the interrogation room," Nelson said.

But the body, police say, was not found in a plastic container.

Investigators believe Nelson acted on her own. They say all family members have alibis. Eyewitnesses placed Nelson's truck at Jonathan's home at the time of his disappearance. They say they also found burned carpet and twine used to tie Jonathan's hands at her apartment along with welding equipment they believe she used to burn the body.

"I do have a cutting torch. I'm a welder. I would never do that. I have five grandkids," Nelson said.

Nelson, who attended but did not graduate from Bellaire High School, has 26-year-old twins -- a boy and a girl who live in north Texas. She was once a professional boxer and currently does maintenance work. She says she knew Jonathan's family because they all partied together.

Nelson's sister says she spent the four days after the murder, including Christmas Day, with her.

"She showed no signs of doing anything to anybody illegal," said sister Angie Johnson. "I don't believe at all she has anything to do with killing a child. That's not Mona."

Police call her a predator and say they will look deeper.

"Do I believe she's done it before? Yea, I do. I don't believe she began and ended with the abduction of Jonathan Foster, I don't," said Det. Miller.

While investigators say they have their suspicions about a motive, they are not yet releasing that information. Authorities are also not saying how Jonathan died.

A police source close to the investigation told us the story Nelson told us was different from the one she told investigators. While there were conflicting stories among Jonthan's family members, they have all been cleared.

Nelson does have a lengthy criminal history that includes aggravated robbery, drug charges and threatening a woman. She is due in court on Monday.

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

Detectives noticeably affected

As the Eyewitness News team watched this afternoon's press conference, one thing really struck us was just how emotional the detective got when talking about this case. While day in and day out, police deal with difficult situations, it's obvious this gruesome case took an emotional toll on the those worked it.

Detective Mike Miller described what it's been like in his own words:

"There are few cases that impact homicide detictives in this matter, this is one of them."

"Doing what I do, I don't try to be surprised anymore, but his body did lay there in a ditch, and it take some time to report it. I don't have an explanation for that, but yeah I was shocked by that."

"For the sake of the family, I'm not going to go into detail description. There's been enough of that in the media, of Jonathan's body; it was incredibly horrible."

"Once we arrived at her house, we stumbled into a wealth of evidence, evidence that showed perhaps his body was burned at the residence, evidence that showed the items he was burned with, evidence that had us pretty shaken up in collecting it."

"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."

"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 that can't be put into words."

For situations like this, HPD has counselors available to help officers deal with what they're going through.

New details released in case

It was surveillance cameras where Jonathan's body was found in northeast Houston that gave investigators their break. At the news conference, 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. 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.

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.

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

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.