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  1. #1
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    MI - Cherita Janice Thomas, 20, Ausable Township, 4 Aug 1980

    Cherita Janice Thomas
    Missing since August 4, 1980 from Ausable Township, Iosco County, Michigan.
    Classification: Endangered Missing
    Vital Statistics
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 20 years old
    Distinguishing Characteristics: Black female.

    Circumstances of Disappearance
    On August 4, 1980, Cherita Thomas disappeared in Ausable Township. She was last seen on a stretch of road. Thomas was a black woman and young mother living in a mostly white, conservative town. She was on her way to pick up her baby daughter from the sitter when she vanished, barely a mile from the police station.

    In April of 2004, a former AuSable Township resident was arrested in Houston, Texas, and charged with lying to police and obstructing the investigation into the 1980 disappearance and probable murder of Cherita Thomas. Jimmie Allen Nelson, 51, an interstate hazardous waste hauler living in Houston, was taken into custody at his home by the Harris County Sheriff Department at the request of the Oscoda Township Police Department.
    Nelson, in addition to being charged with trying to mislead police, is also the chief suspect in the disappearance of the missing woman. The attractive black female was last seen about 11:15 p.m. on that Saturday getting into a pickup truck driven by a bearded white male. At the time of her disappearance, Thomas was driving a borrowed brown AMC Matador and was en route to pick up her four-year-old daughter from the baby-sitter's.

    According to police, the vehicle reportedly stalled at the intersection of US-23 and River Road, and three area youths assisted Thomas in getting it started and she continued on her way. The vehicle apparently stalled again on Sunset Street in AuSable Township, less than two blocks from the sitter's home. Several witnesses reported seeing a blue pickup parked grill-to-grill with the disabled Matador about 11:15 p.m., according to MacGregor. One said she saw Thomas get into the truck, which drove off in the direction of Old US-23. Thomas was never seen again.

    In 1980, Nelson worked for a local logging company and lived on Sunset with his wife and children. He drove a blue pickup and fit the description of the man seen with Thomas, according to MacGregor. There was another link. Nelson was the baby-sitter's brother-in-law.

    Local police brought in the FBI when her disappearance was deemed a hate crime. Foul play is suspected.

    Investigators
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

    Oscoda Township Police Department Det/Sgt. Allan MacGregor 517-739-9113
    or
    FBI Agent David Marthaler 989-892-6525
    Source Information
    ABC News
    Centre Daily
    Iosco County News-Herald
    The Doe Network: Case File 1139DFMI

    Link::
    http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1139dfmi.html
    Last edited by SheWhoMustNotBeNamed; 05-05-2010 at 10:33 PM. Reason: updated doe network link

  2. #2
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    Its funny how the few cases about missing African-Americans get zero to no replys/attention or even views...

    I am very familiar with this case and I do believe that (given the evidence), Ms Thomas was a victim of a hate crime. It upsets me to see that a suspect has been named but nothing has been done. I can only hope that the members of WS as well as the media, and the law enforcement agency involved in Ms Thomas' case help bring more attention to the case, which will eventually solve this mystery

  3. #3
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    I don't understand why this man wasn't under investigation for her disappearance back in 1980. It's pretty obvious from witness accounts he was last person seen with her. I guess she would trust him to go with him being her babysitter was the SIL of the man, and she probably knew him. I think the police mishandled the matter in the beginning.

  4. #4
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    http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/...s_cherita.html

    In 2004, investigators arrested Jimmie Allen Nelson in Houston, Texas and charged him with to police and obstructing the investigation into Thomas's disappearance and probable murder. He is the brother-in-law of the baby-sitter Thomas was going to see the day of her disappearance, and he lived on Sunset Street worked at an area logging company in 1980. Police investigated Nelson shortly after Thomas's disappearance, but they did not seriously suspect him in the case because a violent federal fugitive had been seen in the area around the time she disappeared and they thought he had abducted her.

    Investigators interviewed the fugitive in prison thirteen years later, but he had an alibi for the time Thomas disappeared, so they returned their focus to Nelson. He gave inconsistent statements about the day Thomas vanished. At first he had denied seeing Thomas the day of her disappearance, but later admitted that he gave her a ride when her car broke down. He said he took her to a friend's home and then to Wiltse's Restaurant, where employees who were cleaning the establishment let her inside. He said he had not told authorities about it earlier because Thomas asked him not to.

    The charges Nelson is facing are based solely on his statements to police and do not implicate him in her disappearance. However, he is the prime suspect in Thomas's case. Police believe she was murdered in a hate crime; she was an African-American woman living in a predominantly Caucasian, conservative area.

    Nelson faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges. Thomas's case remains unsolved.

  5. #5
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    http://www.oscodapress.com/articles/...ews/news03.txt

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Murder and some perjury charges dismissed in Jimmie Nelson case

    by Holly Nelson

    TAWAS CITY - A district court judge has dismissed the murder charge and nearly half the perjury counts brought against Jimmie Allen Nelson, 53, in a 25-year-old missing person case.

    Judge Richard E. Noble, who was assigned to determine if there was probable cause to move the case out of 81st District Court, ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the dismissed counts.

    Nelson, formerly of Oscoda, was arrested at his Houston, Texas, home in April 2004 on multiple counts of perjury and one count for obstruction of justice. He was subsequently charged with open murder and additional perjury counts this past January.

    All of the charges stem from the mysterious disappearance and suspected murder of a black Oscoda woman in 1980.

    Cherita Janice Thomas was 20 when she disappeared on Aug. 3, 1980.

    Authorities believe she was abducted after the car she was driving broke down on Sunset Street in AuSable Township as she was enroute to pick up her four-year-old daughter from the babysitter's nearby home.

    Oscoda Township Police Department officers interviewed Nelson at the time of the disappearance and on several other occasions over 20 years. The Federal Bureau of Investigations joined the investigation when it appeared that the suspected crime may have been racially motivated.

    It was Nelson's allegedly conflicting statements to the law enforcement officers and to Iosco County Prosecutor Gary Rapp which resulted in the perjury counts.

    The murder charge was brought at the urging of Oscoda police after locating witnesses who allege Nelson admitted picking up Thomas on the night of her disappearance, along with other information, including witness statements that Thomas got into a truck matching the description of that which Nelson drove at the time.

    The charges against Nelson were disputed by his attorney during the extended preliminary hearing conducted earlier this summer by the visiting judge. The purpose of the proceeding was to determine if there was probable cause to bind Nelson over to 23rd Circuit Court for trial.

    Following testimony, and after the prosecution withdrew two of the perjury counts, Noble ordered both sides to present written closing arguments.

    The judge's ruling was received by 81st District Court on Monday.

    According to the opinion, a murder charge requires proof of both a death and of some criminal agency that caused that death.

    "In the case at bar, based upon the circumstances surrounding Cherita Thomas' disappearance, the court is satisfied that she is deceased. However, the law in Michigan clearly requires evidence that some type of criminal agency caused that death," Noble wrote.

    "There has not been any evidence of a criminal agency presented before the court. The testimony satisfies the court that the defendant may have been the last person to have seen her alive, he may have been racially biased, he may have painted the inside of his truck, but there is no direct or circumstantial evidence, no bloodstains, no DNA, no fingerprints, no weapon, no evidence of violence against Cherita Thomas," the opinion states.

    The murder charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be reinstated as warranted by new evidence.

    As for the perjury charges, Judge Noble dismissed nine of those counts, leaving 15 perjury charges and one count of obstruction of justice to be decided.

    The remaining charges have been forwarded to the 23rd Circuit Court for trial. If found guilty of any of the perjury counts, Nelson will face life in prison. The obstruction of justice charge carries a five-year maximum.

    Further proceedings could be delayed, should either the prosecution or defense decide to appeal Noble's ruling.

    "I'm weighing my options about what we're going to do," Prosecutor Rapp said. "I need to do some research and ask the judge what he based his decision on and get this on the record.

    "I think Judge Noble tried to do a good job, but he did not lay out his specific findings of fact. There's not a lot of meat on the bones in this decision," Rapp added.

    Nelson's attorney, Neil Rockind, commended Noble for a fair and difficult decision.

    "Do I think we are on the right track to seeing that justice is done? Yes," Rockind said. "There's still work to be done for us and work for me to prove Jimmie is innocent.

    "On the one hand, I'm very pleased for Jimmie and, on the other, very sad. I look forward to moving the case to conclusion."

    He said he will be reviewing the decision with an eye toward a possible appeal, questioning how the remaining capital perjury charges can stand in the absence of a capital murder charge.

    "I think the judge's decision speaks volumes about the quality of the case."

    Rockind contends investigators decided Nelson committed the crime and then set out to prove it, rather than letting the evidence determine the course of the investigation.

    "They began with the premise that Jimmie committed murder and anything inconsistent with that is perjury," the attorney said.

    Rockind shared Judge Noble's decision with the Nelson family on Monday afternoon and said they were very pleased that the husband, father and grandfather no longer has a murder charge hanging over his head.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by PonderingThings
    ... At first he had denied seeing Thomas the day of her disappearance, but later admitted that he gave her a ride when her car broke down. He said he took her to a friend's home and then to Wiltse's Restaurant, where employees who were cleaning the establishment let her inside. He said he had not told authorities about it earlier because Thomas asked him not to. ...
    This would have been easy to check out back in 1980 if Nelson had offered the information at the time of Cherita's disappearance. Here was a mother attempting to drive to the baby sitter to pick up her baby, who was obviously having car trouble. Certainly not someone looking for a "date" with Mr. Nelson. Yet Nelson would have us believe that she preferred to be with him and that she ASKED him to take her to a restaurant which was closed and NOT TELL anyone?!!!

    Yeah, that's the ticket...

    Of course, he waited some 24 years to tell this story and only came up with it when police arrested him as a suspect. And after being told that witnesses could place him and his truck with Cherita on her last day.

    I am sure that his lawyer would be quick to point out that stupidity is not against the law. Unfortunately for Nelson, lying to police IS against the law.

    If police were to locate this "friend" whose house they visited, and the restaurant employees and interview them, they might tell a different story. But Nelson's story would then probably change again.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airys_01
    Its funny how the few cases about missing African-Americans get zero to no replys/attention or even views...

    I am very familiar with this case and I do believe that (given the evidence), Ms Thomas was a victim of a hate crime. It upsets me to see that a suspect has been named but nothing has been done. I can only hope that the members of WS as well as the media, and the law enforcement agency involved in Ms Thomas' case help bring more attention to the case, which will eventually solve this mystery
    You make a very good point. This is something that the national news media has been accused of also. It is often pointed out that young, white, blonde girls or women who disappear get more coverage than missing people of other races, ages, etc.

    I cannot explain preferences of people who choose to read or comment on cases presented here in this forum, other than to say that I have noticed cases which have enjoyed national media coverage often seem to have more "hits". I think that may be due to the fact that since more people already have heard of the case, they may do a Google search on the name and then find it here on Websleuths.

    When I post a named case here on Websleuths, I do not include race in the title. It is, of course, included in the physical description. When posting about a John/Jane Doe, I sometimes post race in the title, not as a way of discrimination, but only because that is how it is listed in the source data base.

    I have often wondered why some posts get more attention than others. Lately, there seem to be more replies made to newly posted cases, whereas, if you look at past cases, there may be still no replies after a whole year.

    My personal feelings are that every unknown deserves a name and that everyone who has been the victim of violence, regardless of race or color, deserves equal justice.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard

    I have often wondered why some posts get more attention than others. Lately, there seem to be more replies made to newly posted cases, whereas, if you look at past cases, there may be still no replies after a whole year.
    One of the reasons are the people who have joined the forum recently. When I joined at the beginning of the year, it was rare for more than two people to be visiting this forum at any given time. Now an average of 12 to 15 (members and guests) may be visiting at any given time.
    Also, the nature of the case has much to do with the level of discussion. For instance, "Mr. Bones" left behind many, many intriguing clues as to what had happened to him, leading to pages of intelligent discourse and speculation. On the other hand, a case which primarliy consists of "girl went missing" does not lend itself to much discussion. As we are not law enforcement, and have no access to case files, we can only discuss those clues that are available to the public. Otherwise, all we do is wildly speculate.
    I, personally, was a little offended by the comment. Anyone is free to start threads and make as many comments as they like. Two threads have been dedicated to the young woman found in a park in PA, and many people who don't normally visit Cold Cases have dedicated hours to discovering the origin of the one clue in that case-a grocery bag.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Airys_01
    Its funny how the few cases about missing African-Americans get zero to no replys/attention or even views...
    Hi Airys_01,

    I hope after you have been here awhile you will get to know the regulars in Cold Cases and change the way you feel. When I read the above it was certainly upsetting. I can only speak for myself but I can assure you I never take into consideration a victimís race. (I don't think any of the other regulars do either)

    My prerequisite for posting is usually "Do I have any thing of value to add to the thread" or sometimes when things get really sad or outrageous I might post something funny to break the monotony... "I hope people don't take those times as disrepectful or making fun of the thread." Sometimes we just need a break.

    There are times when I get frustrated about how many views and post a thread gets... But I just hang in there and keep posting on it until someone shows up to give me some input.

    Also the more you post, the more we will get to know you. So post as much as you can. It helps us know if we are dealing with a fruitcake or a person to be taken seriously.


  10. #10
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    Personally I don't care if they are purple with yellow poka dots!!!! If they are a missing PERSON they are a human being that is "lost" to their life.

    I usually only post after I've done HOURS of research, or if I come across some new information about a case.

    I don't believe that missing person's cases are read by a large number of people that live beyond the immediate geographical area - therefore I don't believe the media *helps* all that much, no matter what race, or age, you are! They do within the first 10 days, and they do when an update occurs, but rarely is a missing person found because someone saw the story on the news, if the disappearance happened more that 10 days before.

    Just my opinion.


  11. #11
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    how I decide what cases to post about

    Quote Originally Posted by Yaya
    . . .My prerequisite for posting is usually "Do I have any thing of value to add to the thread" or sometimes when things get really sad or outrageous I might post something funny to break the monotony... "I hope people don't take those times as disrepectful or making fun of the thread." Sometimes we just need a break. . .
    Agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yaya
    . . .I can only speak for myself but I can assure you I never take into consideration a victimís race. . .
    Well said.

    Note to readers:
    I do look at whether I can bring anything at all useful to a case. I also consider how many projects I am already working on and I consider the things I have to take care of in my life offline. But I never ever consider not looking at a case because the victem was a certain color, race,sex or even height or weight.

  12. #12
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    I commend every member and vistor on WS.com because an unsolved disappearances or murders all have one thing in common- they are unsolved. No matter whether or not I've heard about the story on Cold Case, read it on crimelibrary.org, or say it on the local news, I always make sure that I read all of the different mysteries that are posted on WS because I might know something that could help bring closure to a case. Happy Holidays and keep up the good work.

  13. #13
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    I just stumbled upon this post. Due to family and work, I dont have time to look at them all, but my husband is AA and my son is bi racial, so that is not why i havent commented before. Let me say, this is a sad sad case. It is also a very fishy one. I mean come on, what do they need on this mans back, a sign that says yes i killed her?
    Find Brian Shaffer!!
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  14. #14
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    http://www.wnem.com/news/19342932/detail.html

    UPDATED: 1:07 pm EDT May 1, 2009

    Man Charged In Woman's Disappearance
    Cold Case Heats Up After New Charges Filed Against Jimmy Nelson


    A man is headed to trial on a murder charge in the case of a Michigan woman who has been missing since 1980.

    The Bay City Times reported Jimmie Nelson, 56, pleaded not guilty Monday in Iosco County Circuit Court on an open murder charge...

    ...A jury in 2006 convicted him of perjury and obstruction of justice in the case, sending him to jail for a year...
    "Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind." ~ Henry James

  15. #15
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    I wonder what prompted the new charges?

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