'Only suspect' jailed in Christmas killing in Houston
Update: A hearing in the case was scheduled Thursday morning in Houston, but Nelson did not appear due to medical reasons. Authorities did not provide details.
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A family acquaintance has been charged with capital murder in the death of 12-year-old Jonathan Foster, a Houston boy who police say was kidnapped from his home on Christmas Eve before being killed, badly burned and dumped in a ditch.
Mona Yvette Nelson, 44, was arrested Wednesday morning at her home.
"Mona Nelson has made what investigators call a self-serving statement, which places her with Jonathan. However, she has not admitted to killing him," said HPD spokesman Kese Smith. "She is the only suspect."
Jonathan disappeared before 2 p.m. on Friday. Smith said the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences late Wednesday identified a body found in a culvert Tuesday near East Hardy and Schilder Drive as Jonathan's. No signs of a fire were near his body, indicating he had been burned elsewhere.
A break in the case came when Nelson's Ford F-150 truck was spotted on surveillance video taken from an office building near the culvert.
Investigators spent hours Wednesday questioning Nelson. They believe she took Jonathan to her home near U.S. 59 and Laura Koppe, where she likely killed him and burned his body, said HPD homicide investigator Mike Miller.
He said a search of Nelson's house turned up an "incredible amount of evidence" that points to Nelson as the killer, but investigators are still trying to discern her motive.
"That's the million-dollar question," Miller said.
Had spent time in prison
In 1984, Nelson was charged with aggravated robbery and later pleaded guilty in exchange for 10 years' probation, court records show. In 1991, her probation was revoked and she was sent to prison. It was unclear from court documents late Wednesday how she violated probation or how long she spent behind bars.
Jonathan's mother, Angela Davis, crumpled into a couch Wednesday afternoon in the small cottage in northwest Houston where her son was last seen alive.
"I feel responsible because I left him here," she said, crying and staring blankly at the front door. "I'm his mama. I'm supposed to protect him."
She knew little about the fate of her son, nicknamed J.P. for Jonathan Paul, and sometimes called "Frog" by his aunt for the stick-skinny legs he had as a newborn.
She did know that police had a woman in custody, someone she said she'd met only once, on the night of Jonathan's disappearance.
Nelson was friends with her roommate and Jonathan's frequent babysitter, Sharon Ennamorato. Ennamorato described Nelson as a friend who used to work in maintenance at an apartment complex across the street.
On Friday morning, both Davis and Ennamorato had to work, and Jonathan was going to stay home alone until his mom could make it home, around 1 or 2 p.m. They said they left Jonathan with specific instructions: He was not to leave the house, which is nestled next to an apartment complex on Oak Street in northwest Houston. If he had any problems, he should run next door and tell his neighbor.
Davis had moved into the little cottage with Ennamorato on Dec. 14, after she and Jonathan's stepfather, David Davis, split up. She said he had gotten angry and slapped the boy. Davis considered taking Jonathan to her mother's house, she said, but she didn't want to uproot him when he'd just started classes at Durham Elementary School in November.
That morning at work, a colleague told Davis her son had called the office, and had asked for Ennamorato's number. She was only told about the call after the fact, she said.
Then a woman called back, saying it was an emergency. By the time Davis made it to the phone, she said, the line was dead.
Concerned, Davis called the house phone again and again as she drove to the cottage, she said. Someone picked up just minutes before she pulled up around 2 p.m.
A woman answered, she said, and Davis identified herself and asked to speak her son. She heard a woman say: "Is your mama's name Angela?" she said.
And she heard Jonathan say: "Yes ma'am, my mama's name is Angela." And then the phone went dead.
When she opened the door moments later, cartoons were still on the TV, and a game was up on the computer screen. A can of Tootsie rolls sat on the computer desk.
"I hollered, 'Jonathan, mama's home! Where are you?'" There was no answer.
"The only thing missing in this house is his tan T-shirt with a guitar on it, a pair of jeans, his white sneakers and his black stuffed cat that my grandmother made him," Davis said. "There was no struggle."
That night, she said, Nelson stopped by the house. She told Davis she had come to the house that morning looking for Ennamorato, and that Jonathan had answered the door wearing no shirt, and it seemed like someone was in the house with him.
'A gift from God'
Davis said she's not pretending to be a perfect parent. When felt her life spiraling out of control years ago, she sent her children to live with relatives.
"He hasn't seen his father since he was 4 years old," she said. "When he was 6, his father told him on the phone that he was a problem in his life and he didn't want nothing to do with him."
She calls him a twice-born child, because his heart had stopped when she was pregnant with him, and the doctors thought he'd died. But they picked up the heartbeat, and he was born a healthy little boy.
"That's why his name is Jonathan, which means a gift from God," she said. "I don't know how God could give me that gift, and then take him from me."
Reporter Brian Rogers contributed.
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