Woman sheds new light on old case s

Woman sheds new light on old case

June 22, 2008
Free Press
By Robb Murray

The man who confessed to killing an unidentified woman in Blue Earth in 1980 is up for parole and could be out of prison soon.

Robert Leroy Nelson — the former state trooper who has spent the last 18 years of his life in a Texas prison on a conviction of sexual misconduct with a child — has been eligible for parole since January. A parole hearing could be scheduled soon.

Nelson confessed to killing the woman, who was found in a ditch off Interstate 90 near Blue Earth.

Texas Parole Board officials have contacted Deb Anderson of Blue Earth, who has made a personal quest of finding the woman’s identity and asked to interview her regarding Nelson’s release. She had asked to be put on a victim’s notification list.

“I was shocked,” Anderson said. “I called the sheriff’s office just to keep them in the loop.”

“I have a feeling that since she’s been contacted,” said Scott Adams, chief deputy of the Faribaut County Sheriff’s Department, “there may be a chance he’s going to get out.”

Nelson’s pending release is the latest in a series of new developments in the “Jane Doe case,” as it’s called.

Anderson also has stepped up her efforts to get authorities to exhume Jane Doe’s body. And she has people lined up who have offered to cover most of the job’s costs. One group has offered to do an isotopic analysis. A local digger — the same man who dug the hole in which Jane Doe is buried — is willing dig it up again. A local funeral home has offered to help with legal public records work.

Even law enforcement is apparently willing to work with her, which is something relatively new to Anderson. When she began this work, a different sheriff and administration was in charge. The present administration, she said, doesn’t seem to be as obstinate in opposing exhumation and has been easier to deal with all around, she said.

“My sense is that (the sheriff) is far more open to the idea,” Anderson said. “He hasn’t immediately blown it off.”

Several months ago, reporter Sarah Day at the Fairmont Sentinel, while investigating the sheriff’s departments files on the case, stumbled across some evidence that, for years, was unable to be located.

Day found a fingerprint. After that, it was sent to the FBI so it could be compared to the millions of others in its vast fingerprint database. Unfortunately, the FBI was unable to find a match for it.

Adams, meanwhile, has been pursuing a dozen or so leads per year that come to him from The Doe Network, a national organization that tries to find missing persons. In 2006, he had between 15 and 18 referrals to follow up on. In 2007, there were about six. But already this year, after Adams discovered a more efficient way to get information from The Doe Network, he’s had 20.