A Moab man who was convicted four years ago for his role in helping a teenager hide the body of a murder victim was arrested last week for stealing a rifle and two handguns.
The Grand County Attorney’s Office has charged Charles Anthony “Tony” Nelson with three second-degree felony charges of theft of a firearm. Because he was convicted in 2013 of second-degree felony obstruction of justice, Nelson is not allowed to possess firearms, leading prosecutors to charge him with three third-degree felony charges of “restricted person in possession of (a) dangerous weapon.” He also stands accused of class A misdemeanor burglary of a vehicle.
Authorities allege that Nelson stole an AR-15 rifle, a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and a .45-caliber Kimber Custom II handgun from a Moab man’s vehicle between the dates of Thursday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Nov. 24.
“It occurred some time when the individual parked their car during the evening,” Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder told the Moab Sun News. “We can’t (narrow) down the specific time.”
According to the Moab City Police Department, a citizen reported the theft of the weapons on Nov. 24 and identified a possible suspect. The responding officer and Moab City Police detectives pursued the man’s lead and gathered enough information for a warrant to search Nelson’s residence.
On Sunday, Nov. 26, officers began surveillance of the residence and made contact with Nelson as he left the home. Nelson allegedly admitted to the theft and then led officers to the stolen firearms, which were located in various places in the home, and buried in the backyard, the police department reported.
“The individual was very responsive,” Winder said. “He was cooperative when we contacted him.”
Nelson, who turned 21 in May, made his first appearance in the case via a video conference call in 7th District Court on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
He did not speak to the court at length, and he largely stuck to two-word responses indicating that he understands the charges against him, as well as the potential penalties that he faces.
The second-degree felony charges alone each carry a possible sentence of one to 15 years in state prison, and if he’s convicted of every charge against him, he could be sentenced to as many as 60 years in state prison, plus one year in jail.
Nelson initially appeared without an attorney by his side, and in order to determine whether he qualified for court-appointed counsel, Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson ran through a routine list of questions about Nelson’s employment status.
The defendant told the judge that he is not working currently, and has been unemployed for somewhere between four to eight weeks.
“I’d say about two months ago – a month ago,” he said.
He also indicated that he wasn’t earning enough money to afford his own attorney.
“It was per hour,” he said. “$10.”
Based on those responses, the judge appointed Grand County Public Defender Don Torgerson to serve as Nelson’s defense attorney; Torgerson previously represented Nelson in the 2013 obstruction of justice case.
In that case, prosecutors initially suspected that Nelson shot suspected drug dealer Gregorio Salazar Campos in the head three times because Nelson bragged about the shooting, telling friends that he pulled the trigger. However, sheriff’s detectives subsequently discovered that Nelson’s friend, Brody Blu Kruckenberg, actually killed Campos, who had been dating Kruckenberg’s mother.
Surveillance video showed that Nelson and Brody Blu Kruckenberg bought rope together after Campos’ murder; prosecutors have said that Nelson also helped destroy some evidence, and looked for possible sites where Campos’ body could be dumped.
After that information came to light, Judge Anderson signed an order to dismiss the original charge of first-degree murder, and the then-17-year-old teen’s case was transferred from district court to juvenile court. Nelson subsequently pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge, and was then sentenced to an indeterminate term in Utah’s highest-security juvenile detention facility.
In the latest case, Nelson is now scheduled to enter a plea on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
He remains in custody at the Grand County Jail. Under the law, he is presumed to be innocent unless or until a court formally convicts him of any charges.
Man involved in hiding body of 2013 murder victim faces multiple felony charges