Stephen Dean, KPRC (Houston), December 31, 2010
Homicide investigators said a welding torch is the likely weapon used in 12-year-old Jonathan Foster’s death, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.
“We’re talking crematorium-type of hot,” said one Houston Police Department Homicide Squad officer assigned to the investigation.
Police said they confiscated a badly burned section of carpet from the home of Mona Yvette Nelson, 44, who stands charged with capital murder.
She had a welding background and police found welding equipment in her home on Allwood Street in the Fifth Ward area of Northeast Houston. Police said a section of carpet was badly burned and the smell of a human body filled the area around that carpet.
One investigator assigned to the case said it now appears Foster was killed at that spot in Nelson’s home within hours of being kidnapped from his family’s home near Shepherd Drive and 43rd Street in Northwest Houston.
One officer said on Friday that the autopsy has ruled out any trauma on the child’s body. There were no broken bones or any signs of strangulation or head wounds, so officers said it now appears the child was killed with a welding torch that could be capable of 6,000-degree flames.
“I’ve never seen burns like this,” said one officer who viewed the boy’s body after it was found in a ditch off the Hardy Toll Road on Tuesday.
He said that killers often try to cover their tracks by burning the victim’s corpse, but in this boy’s case, the burning was so intense and thorough that many veteran homicide investigators are struggling with the notion of such a grisly and painful way to die.
As for a motive, one HPD investigator said officers believe sexual abuse was behind the crime.
The officer said there is no evidence to confirm the theory at this point, but police say there was no ransom demand after the boy was kidnapped, so one officer said, “That’s the only other motive (that makes any sense).”
Nelson is jailed without bond with a court appearance set for Monday.
Police spent Friday interviewing the child’s family once again, shoring up the timeline of events and filling in routine gaps in the statements that were given immediately after the crime.
They also spent several hours organizing the carpet and other evidence confiscated from Nelson’s home. One officer said, “We got all we need (from there).”
A 44-year-old grandmother is already accused of killing one child and then burning his body with a welding torch. Now Houston Police are looking into the possibility Mona Yvette Nelson is a serial predator.
Houston Police say Nelson acted alone when she kidnapped and killed 12-year-old Jonathan Foster on Christmas Eve.
Nelson has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bond.
Police say Nelson has confessed to dumping Foster’s charred remains in a ditch but does not admit killing him.
Activist Quannel X met with Nelson for about an hour Thursday afternoon upon her request. He says she does not yet have an attorney.
Police are confident Nelson planned the killing on her own. Detectives say they grilled the people she tried to implicate, documented every second of their day and determined they weren’t involved.
Nelson often did maintenance work at apartment complexes on Oak Street in northwest Houston where Foster was last seen. On Christmas Eve police say Nelson took Foster, who had been left home alone, from a small cottage next to an apartment complex, then killed and dumped his body just hours later.
The break in the case came when surveillance cameras on a nearby business showed the image of a silver pickup truck and a woman dumping a body in a ditch. Police say a witness reported seeing the same woman and truck earlier in the day at the apartment complex. When confronted with the video, detective Miller says Nelson admitted she was the one seen dumping the body.
The body turned out to be Jonathan Foster.
At Nelson’s garage apartment on Allwood in the North Forest area, Miller says detectives stumbled onto a wealth of evidence, including burned carpet, twine found around Jonathan’s hands and welding torches police believe Nelson used after she killed him.
Police admit it’s hard to believe a 44-year-old woman would suddenly choose to kidnap, kill and burn the body of a child. That’s why they’re checking to see if she may be involved in similar cases.
Nelson’s criminal past dates back to 1984, when she went to prison for aggravated robbery. She’s also spent time in jail for a bad check, marijuana, making a terroristic threat and criminal mischief.