Somerset County suspect linked to sexual assaults of two Hagerstown girls in late 1980s
A Cumberland, Maryland, man charged this week in connection with a 20-year-old kidnapping in Somerset County has been linked through DNA with the sexual assaults of two Hagerstown girls in the late 1980s.
Hagerstown Police Chief Paul Kifer said Timothy Davis Nelson, 50, was arrested Tuesday in Cumberland for the Pennsylvania case, but has not been charged by Maryland authorities.
“It’s taken a long time, but it looks like we’re finally there,” he said.
Nelson was established as a suspect in the Pennsylvania kidnapping after a cold case investigator resubmitted an old fingerprint from evidence and got a hit.
Kifer said additional DNA evidence from the 1999 case showed a potential match with the Hagerstown sexual assault cases that occurred in the fall of 1988.
Pennsylvania State Police said Nelson forcibly took a 10-year-old girl off a street in Cairnbrook on Sept. 19, 1999. He then traveled with her to a remote location in West Virginia and assaulted her. She was released the same day.
That scenario, Kifer said, was similar to the 1988 cases of two Hagerstown girls who were abducted from the city’s North End, sexually assaulted and dropped off in remote locations.
Kifer said the victims in both of those cases have been told about Nelson’s arrest.
City police detectives will have to obtain a warrant to retrieve fresh DNA from Nelson, Kifer said, to see if it matches the DNA that was taken nearly three decades ago. If the DNA is a match, he will be charged.
But in all likelihood, the FBI probably will take over the case because the crimes were committed in multiple states.
Kifer said two other women have come forward to Hagerstown police since a story ran earlier this week in the Daily American. The women had similar experiences, he said, to the ones that were reported in 1988 and 1999.
“We’re broadening our search of old cases that might be linked,” Kifer said.
The Herald-Mail reported in 1988 that the first abduction occurred on Sept. 10 of that year, when a 7-year-old girl was riding her bike with a friend in an alley near Broadway.
The girls told police that a man asked if they knew where “the music place” was located. When they said no, the man grabbed the 7-year-old, put her in the trunk of his car and drove to a vacant lot in the 800 block of Commonwealth Avenue.
He then sexually assaulted her. Reports show the girl ran to a nearby business, where employees called police.
The second abduction was reported on Oct. 16, 1988. In that case, the girl was playing with two friends in the alley behind the 1000 block of Hamilton Boulevard, where a man asked for directions, grabbed the girl and drove her to Brown’s Quarry Road in the Sabillasville area of Frederick County, Maryland.
The man sexually assaulted the girl before he let her go. A news reporter at the time said the girl was 9 years old. This week, police said she was 10.
A newspaper clipping said at the time that the girl ran to a nearby house, but no one was home. She then saw three archers in the woods and went to them for help.
At least one other abduction of a young girl was reported around the same time.
The crimes prompted police to host a meeting on the night of Nov. 1, 1988, at Northern Middle School. Parents and children from kindergarten to the sixth grade were urged to attend to learn safety tips “in the wake of the recent abductions.”
The 1999 kidnapping case initiated a multi-state search for a teal green Geo Metro and a white male in his 20s or 30s. The kidnapper was wearing a unique green T-shirt with a cartoon depicting an alien sitting in front of a fireplace.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jeff Brock led an extensive investigation involving numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, but no leads were developed.
Nelson was arraigned Thursday on charges of kidnapping, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint, statutory sexual assault and other related misdemeanors. He is in the Somerset County Jail in lieu of a $750,000 bond.