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Slain Woman Evidently Had Cousin

The Region

Friends of the Laguna Niguel bludgeoning victim say a relative has been found in Utah. An official says more verification is needed.

July 09, 2004|Erin Ailworth | Times Staff Writer

Friends of a slain Laguna Niguel woman thought to have died with no relatives or will said Thursday that Orange County officials have found a cousin in Utah.

Investigators with the Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian's office began searching last week for relatives of Jane Thompson, 72, who was found bludgeoned to death in her home June 27.

A 15-year-old neighbor has been charged with the killing.

Deputy Public Administrator Tim Beason said he believes his office has found Thompson's first cousin on her father's side, but that the information still needs to be verified through birth certificates and other legal documents.

"Everything looks like relatives on paper," Beason said, "but for our satisfaction, we need a lot more."

Investigators also found a cemetery in St. Louis where Thompson had arranged a cremation for herself, Beason said. She will be placed in a vault near her parents' burial site. Beason said the mortuary hoped to remove Thompson from the coroner's office as early as Thursday night.

Sheriff's deputies said they believed Thompson was killed June 25 during a botched burglary. She was struck more than 12 times with a finishing hammer after she apparently surprised an intruder.

Thompson was discovered two days later after a worried friend phoned police because Thompson missed a social engagement. Samuel Moses Nelson was arrested June 29 in connection with the killing. Nelson has been charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances and is being held in Juvenile Hall. He will be tried as an adult.

In an unrelated incident, Nelson's older brother, Joshua Abraham Nelson, 18, has been accused of having sex with two underage girls, ages 14 and 17, whom he also photographed engaged in sex acts, authorities said.

The photos were found when investigators searched the Nelson residence after Thompson's death.

The older Nelson is being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.

The brothers are scheduled to be arraigned separately July 23 in Superior Court.

Because police had cordoned off the crime scene, county officials could not start searching for a will or relatives of Thompson until late last week. In cases such as this, if no relatives are located, the county assumes responsibility for burying the deceased.

Friends of Thompson, however, already had started to petition the court for permission to arrange her funeral services.

A memorial service has been tentatively planned for July 18.

News of Thompson's relative reached longtime friend Marian Rees this week. Rees said she had spoken with Thompson's cousin in Utah and was assured that her friend of 40 years would receive the funeral and burial she deserved.

"This is just good news," Rees said. "And it takes [Jane's burial] out of the hands of the county."

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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