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Nielsen murder case 'very solvable,' police say

Posted June 13, 2008
Updated June 15, 2008

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— Police investigators have interviewed more than 700 people and received more than 1,000 tips in last year's stabbing death of Jenna Nielsen and have made no arrests.

But they are still seeking leads, and they believe the case will be solved, police said Friday.

"I would characterize this case as very solvable," Raleigh police Maj. Rick Grayson said. "We're just missing a couple of pieces. We need the public's help."

Saturday marks a year since the death of the 22-year-old pregnant mother of two who was delivering USA Today newspapers to supplement her growing family's income. She was about a month away from giving birth to her and her husband's third son, Ethen.

Police say she was making a delivery at the AmeriKing Food Mart on Lake Wheeler Road early on the morning of  June 14, 2007, when someone stabbed her in the neck.

Despite national and local media attention in the weeks and months following Nielsen's death and her family's relentless effort to keep the case in the public eye, police have no suspects.

"Every day, something is worked on. It's an unsolved case, obviously, but we're still working hard on it," Grayson said. "Our department has a long history of not giving up."

A detective is assigned full-time to the case, and others are assigned when needed. Investigators also have a dedicated 24-hour hot line (919-227-6220) for the case, and calls still come in on a daily basis, Grayson said.

Police are also renewing their pleas to the public for information about the case, despite how big or small it may be.

"We want people to try to remember what they were doing that day," Grayson said. "It may be something so small that they think, 'Well, the police don't need to know that information.' We need to know everything."

Early in the investigation, police released a composite photo of a person of interest, but have since backed away from the image, concerned it has narrowed the scope of information they've received and may have been misleading, Grayson said.

They now say the person is a short, slightly built man in his late teens or early 20s with black hair pulled back into a long ponytail. He was wearing a dark-colored sleeveless shirt and baggy blue jeans shorts.

His ethnicity is not known, and detectives are urging people to avoid speculation based upon the physical description.

"We want to stay away from that composite as much as we can," Grayson said.

The case received widespread attention in the days and weeks following Nielsen's slaying. Fox News, CNN and America’s Most Wanted featured the case on their programs.

USA Today also published several full-page advertisements about the case, and a local advertising company posted a billboard in downtown Raleigh in an effort to generate leads.

There's also a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Nielsen's father, Kevin Blaine, says the family is still hopeful for an arrest, although it's been difficult.

"I think in the back of your mind, you do, a little bit (lose hope)," Blaine said. "Here we are nearly a year later, and we have nothing."

The family has been very active in its efforts to keep the case alive, posting information about it on a Web site, justice4jenna.org, and fighting for a fetal homicide law in North Carolina that would recognize the death of a fetus as separate crime.

The pain of their loss, however, is still overpowering and doesn't diminish, Nielsen's widower, Tim Nielsen, said.

"Sometimes, you just want to forget about it," he said. "Sometimes, it can be really overwhelming to try to get a peace of mind every now and then. It just overwhelms your thoughts and overwhelms your day-to-day activities. And it doesn't get easier."


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  • koolady Jun 13, 2008

    This is one of the saddest stories ever. My heart breaks for the family.

  • SpunkyGrits The One and Only Jun 13, 2008

    I hope that they find whoever did this and that it happens soon.

  • luvbailey Jun 13, 2008

    "My suggestion there: if they know who it is and they know they can't get a conviction, at least bring them to trial and make them pay one way or the other. And that might open it up for civil action, also. Like they did with oj."

    twc, I respect disagree. Prosecutors should never accuse and bring someone to trial unless they are convinced that the party is guilty and that they can win the case. Our justice system is based on evidence, not suspicions and "hunches". Don't think that I am soft on crime - I am not. But we have had several cases recently - including death row cases - where the prosecution convicted the wrong person.

  • durham citizen Jun 13, 2008

    The drawing of a person of interest in the two child murders in Oklahoma, looks a lot like the drawing of the person they are looking for in Nielsen case.

  • teacher-mom Jun 13, 2008

    They need to check on those young men who are charged in Eve Clayton's death. They like to travel in the early morning hours.

  • grayboomerang Jun 13, 2008

    In my humble opinion....people who have no compassion for life will probably do it again, unfortantely.....It may be a case similar to the man who was robbing people/shooting them in the head.....once they arrested him for one murder, suddenly they found their suspect in many unsolved murders.

    I do hope they find the suspect sooner than later.....however, they did eventually solve the case in N. Raleigh where the victim was killed in her apartment. Wasn't solved overnight, but they did eventually crack the case.

  • auburnogre Jun 13, 2008

    How do you figure you would need higher taxes to fund this? The point I was making was that if the unmarked cars are already being used to run speed traps and/or are already in the police departments fleet, they could just be allocated for use on patrol. For the record, I would gladly pay more taxes if we knew there would be a direct result of apprehending more criminals and ultimately reducing more criminal activity.

  • angora2 Jun 13, 2008

    "if you can afford unmarked cars to catch speeders, how about we use some on patrol?"

    Are you willing to pay higher taxes to fund this? Probably not. I am.

  • auburnogre Jun 13, 2008

    As someone who works less than 1/2 mile from where this homicide took place, I would love to see this solved; her family could find peace and so could the surrounding community. Before and especially since this crime, several business owners and homeowners, in this area, have asked for an increased police presence in this area but have seen little change. Our business alone has had a breaking and entering occur, a vehicle stolen out of our parking lot, two vehicle break-ins, and we know of several similar reported incidents within just a few blocks of our building. When exactly do you think we will reach a point to where we could expect to see a significant patrol increase? We have been told that it is mainly about "resources" and that criminals can see the police cars come and go - here is a suggestion - if you can afford unmarked cars to catch speeders, how about we use some on patrol?

  • angora2 Jun 13, 2008

    "My suggestion there: if they know who it is and they know they can't get a conviction, at least bring them to trial and make them pay one way or the other. And that might open it up for civil action"

    That still wouldn't give Michelle Young's parents access to their granddaughter. And that lousy, guilty husband of hers would walk free, with no chance of ever being retried. He has no money, so what good would civil action do?