On June 20, 2022, the dismembered remains of an indigenous woman, Mavis Nelson, 56, were discovered on a hiking trail near the University of Washington campus in King County, Washington. DNA evidence taken from Nelson’s remains matched to a man named Charles W. Becker. Becker’s DNA was in the national CODIS database because of a previous conviction in the death of his 4-month-old son in 2015. The case concerning Nelson’s death is an open an ongoing investigation.
Mavis Nelson was a 56-year-old mother and an indigenous member of the Yakima Tribe and Crow Tribe. She grew up in Goldendale, WA, moved to Seattle, and had worked at Plymouth Housing. Nelson had regularly allowed people to stay at her apartment when they had no other place to go.
Nelson had been given the nickname “Boots’ ‘ by her brother when Nelson was younger because of her love of the song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin‘” by Nancy Sinatra. According to sources, Ernestine Morning Owl made the following statement about her younger sister: “She was outgoing. She was fun-loving. She was an independent person. She was a strong person. She was trusting. She was a loving person. She would help anybody.”
Nelson had been reported as missing in April, though it is unclear who filed the missing person report. She had been living in Seattle, Washington at the time of her disappearance. One month later, her remains were discovered.
On June 20, 2022, people that had been walking the Burke-Gilman trail, in the area of Ravenna Ave NE and NE 45th St near the University of Washington, discovered Nelson’s remains. They notified the police immediately. Authorities uncovered low resolution video by that show two people stopping their vehicle, getting out and throwing “something” over a viaduct onto a trail below. The trail is where Nelson was discovered. Investigators have stated that they have not yet identified the vehicle on the video.
The medical examiner determined that Nelson’s cause of death was due to multiple sharp-force wounds in her chest and neck area.
Once police confirmed Nelson’s identity, police and crime lab technicians processed her apartment, hoping to discover any evidence to assist in the case. Several sets of fingerprints were lifted from different areas of Nelson’s apartment. Additional DNA evidence was discovered on nitrile gloves left at the scene which, according to the crime lab, suggests more than one DNA profile. At the present time, those identities are unknown. However, there were sets of fingerprints found at both the Nelson’s apartment and the disposal site that matched a man that had his DNA and fingerprints listed in CODIS, the national law enforcement database. Charles W. Becker was a man who had been convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of his 4-month-old son in 2015 in Pullman, Whitman County, WA. In that case, the infant’s cause of death was due to his airway becoming obstructed by a piece of plastic bag. He served his prison sentence of just a little over 2 years before being released and relocating to Seattle, Washington.
On October 4, 2022, investigators brought Charles W. Becker in for questioning. Becker stated that Nelson had mysteriously died in his apartment, which added to probable cause to search his apartment. Authorities found multiple sources of DNA evidence throughout his home, including the floor of a closet. Further details were given by Becker, which investigators noted as details that only someone with firsthand knowledge would have. King County prosecutors filed formal charges and offered this statement, “The defendant’s incredibly disturbing and brutal actions in this case, combined with his criminal history and warrant history, make clear he poses a substantial danger to the community.” Prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder and sexually violating human remains. Becker’s bail has been set at $5 million.
Investigators have developed a timeline of events, based on evidence, DNA, and statements given by Becker. They believe he was involved in Nelson’s death around May 19, 2022. Police believe he acted alone. Detectives believe he kept her body in a closet for approximately one month. During that months’ time, the evidence suggests that Becker had sexual relations with Nelson’s remains repeatedly, before ultimately dismembering and dumping her (with the assistance of a second person) at the site where she was later discovered.
Investigators state that the murder of Mavis Nelson is an open and active investigation. Authorities have stated that there is still a lot of work to do. A trial date for Charles W. Becker has not been set.
Laid To Rest
Mavis Nelson was laid to rest near her mother and one of her brothers at the Black Wolf Cemetery in Klickitat County, WA. This location near Roosevelt, WA is the burial grounds for the Yakama Nation’s Rock Creek band. Two siblings and three adult children survive her, in addition to her extended family.