Technology, fingerprints helped troopers solve 1999 abduction, rape case
Decades of advances in forensic technology, combined with fingerprints obtained from drunk-driving arrests in Maryland, resulted in a break that allowed troopers to arrest a man for the 1999 abduction and rape of a 10-year-old Somerset County girl, police said Thursday.
Timothy D. Nelson Jr., 50, of Cumberland, Md., was arrested Tuesday by Maryland authorities after DNA and fingerprints collected in the DUI cases in the late 1990s and early 2000s linked him to the Somerset case that had thwarted investigators for almost two decades.
State police Trooper Stephen Limani said Nelson was extradicted to Pennsylvania and arraigned Thursday in Somerset County, where he was ordered held in the county jail after failing to post $750,000 bail set by Windber District Judge William E. Seger.
Nelson is accused of 23 charges, including kidnapping, rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, terroristic threats and aggravated indecent assault on a person less than 13 years old. His preliminary hearing is scheduled Jan. 23.
“If he never would have had to submit to fingerprint analysis, (Nelson) may have never been identified,” Limani said.
Nelson is accused of abducting the girl in rural Shade Township, near the village of Cairnbrook, on Sept. 19, 1999, as she walked with two friends in the early afternoon. Police allege Nelson drove her more than 50 miles away to West Virginia, where she was assaulted.
Evidence collected at the scene of the sexual assault in West Virginia included bags Nelson threw out of his car window that contained Nelson’s DNA, his partial fingerprints and fingerprints of the victim, according to court papers filed by Trooper Jeffrey Brock.
“Over time and with advances in technology, the fingerprints were recently compared via the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, and an apparent match was identified with prints from an arrest in Maryland belonging to the defendant, Timothy David Nelson Jr.,” wrote Brock, who was involved in the initial investigation.
The kidnapping set off an extensive search by state and local authorities. The suspect was described as a white male, about 30 years old, with dark hair and a military-style haircut. He reportedly was wearing a green shirt, a green and tan baseball cap, bright green shorts and dark shoes. His car was described as a teal blue Geo Metro coupe with lime green stripes.
Maryland officials are investigating whether Nelson could be linked to other sexual assaults in that state, Limani said.
In 2004, the DNA collected in West Virginia also matched with two DNA samples collected in 1988 in unsolved kidnapping and assault cases the Hagerstown, Md., area, but no suspects were identified, Brock reported in court documents.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, email@example.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.