Man expected to plead guilty in 1999 abduction, rape of Somerset girl
A 50-year-old Maryland man is expected to plead guilty Thursday in federal court to abducting and raping a Somerset County girl in 1999.
Timothy D. Nelson Jr. of Cumberland, Md., is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson in Johnstown, according to the court docket. Pennsylvania State Police arrested him Jan. 9 following an investigation that spanned two decades. Nelson is charged with kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse of a person under 12 years old.
According to documents filed with the case, Nelson faces potential life sentences on each count.
In January, state police in Somerset announced that forensic technology, combined with fingerprints obtained from drunken-driving arrests in Maryland in the late 1990s and early 2000s, resulted in a break that allowed troopers to arrest Nelson.
He has been in the Somerset County Jail on $750,000 bond since his arrest. Troopers arrested Nelson on 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.
Nelson is accused of abducting the girl in rural Shade Township, near the village of Cairnbrook, on the afternoon of Sept. 19, 1999, as she walked with two friends. Police allege Nelson drove her more than 50 miles to West Virginia, where she was assaulted.
Evidence collected at the scene in West Virginia included bags Nelson threw out of his car window that contained his 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 1999 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.
In 2004, the DNA collected in West Virginia was matched to two DNA samples collected in 1988 in unsolved kidnapping and assault cases in the Hagerstown, Md., area, but no suspect was identified, Brock reported in court documents.
According to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, the same forensic evidence that linked Nelson to the Somerset case resulted in his indictment in Washington County, Md., for two cases in fall 1988.
According to the newspaper, Nelson was indicted for the previously unsolved Sept. 10, 1988, sexual assault of a pre-teen girl who was abducted and sexually assaulted in Hagerstown, and a second abduction and sexual assault on Oct. 16, 1988, of another Hagerstown girl who was eventually released in Frederick County, Md.
Hagerstown is nearly 70 miles away from Nelson’s home in Cumberland.
Nelson’s attorney in the case, Lyle L. Dresbold of David Shrager and Associates in Pittsburgh, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .