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Cold case project renews hope for family of Beloit murder victim

Nearly 13 years after Gary Leo Nelson was murdered in his Beloit home, there is renewed hope for his family that detectives could solve his case.
Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 9:45 PM CDT
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BELOIT, Kan. (KWCH) - Nearly 13 years after Gary Leo Nelson was murdered in his Beloit home, there is renewed hope for his family that detectives could solve his case.

His mother Jean Nelson is 101 years old. She was 89 when her oldest son was killed. Her other five children say she is hanging on, waiting to learn who took Gary’s life.

“It is hard. He was a good boy. He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Jean Nelson told Eyewitness News.

Eyewitness News previously reported on the new cold case playing cards going into jails and prisons across Kansas. The Kansas Department of Corrections hopes the project will stir new leads in cases that have gone cold.

Gary Nelson is the three of spades in that card deck.

“It’s very frustrating. You wouldn’t think a murder would take that long to solve,” said Gary’s brother, Chris Nelson.

Gary was the oldest of six siblings.

“I loved him very much. We spent a lot of time together,” said Gary’s sister, Cheryl Duran. “He meant a lot to me.”

Gary’s daughter and son-in-law, Marianne and Keith Lyon, live in the home where he was murdered.

“I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think about him,” Marianne Lyon said.

There are still bullet holes in the walls. Marianne said she decided not to repair them all just in case investigators might need them someday.

“There was a rumor that someone was going to kill Gary Nelson,” Marianne said.

Then it happened. On December 18, 2009, around 2 a.m., someone – perhaps more than one person – entered through Gary’s unlocked door and shot him.

He was rushed to the Mitchell County Hospital, where family said they waited for doctors to stabilize him. Then they airlifted him to a hospital in Wichita.

“Grandma yelled after him, ‘You fight Gary! You fight for Mama!’” recalled Gary’s nephew Leo Duran.

Gary died in the operating room.

“The look on everybody’s face, especially Grandma’s, I’ll never forget. I was robbed of my dad,” said Leo, who views Gary as a father figure.

Family told Eyewitness News two others in the house at the time said they did not see what happened, but family Davis spoke to said Gary named a name before he died.

“I guess a polygraph was given and passed and they didn’t move on from there. I think it stopped at that point with that person,” Marianne Nelson said. “It makes me angry. I feel like maybe if they dug there, they’d find something.”

KWCH asked investigators about the barriers to solving this case. They could only share limited information because it is an open investigation.

“We’ll continue to keep a fire under the police and keep this moving forward,” Chris Nelson said.

Chris Nelson said he and several of his siblings regularly meet with the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Anthony Perez said he looks at something related to this case almost every day, and both the KBI and the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center are helping.

Perez said the biggest barrier to solving this murder is getting people to talk.

“Somebody has to pay for what they did to this man and what they took away from him and his family,” Cheryl Duran said.

“I believe somebody around here knows and nobody’s talking so far,” Marianne Lyon said.

Soon inmates will see Gary’s face as they play cards behind bars. His picture and case summary are on the three of spades in KDOC’s cold case card deck.

Gary’s nephew Leo works at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. He discovered his uncle was included in the deck during a presentation at work.

“Talk about somebody sucking the air out of the room,” he said.

He was shocked but thrilled. The 52 cases inside the deck were chosen because of their high level of solvability.

Leo recalls his conversation with one of the people working on the project at KDOC.

“She volunteered the information that when she talked to the KBI, his solvability factors included: the physical evidence was well maintained; almost everyone who was involved in the original investigation […] was alive and willing to testify; and, when she asked the KBI investigator if he would be willing to prosecute still, I guess before she even got the words out of her mouth, he said ‘absolutely,’ he said.

“I can’t begin to tell you what that meant to me and what I’m sure that meant to all of us after all this time.

Leo said it affirms for him that detectives have not given up and there is still hope to find Gary’s murderer.

Leo remembers Gary’s fatherly advice.

“He said at the end of the day, it’s all worth nothing if you can’t live with the man in the mirror. I would ask the same people - person or people - who did this: can you live with the man in the mirror?” he said. I know I couldn’t.”

Gary’s family hopes 13 years of guilt chipping away will finally bring someone forward with information or admission that leads detectives to solve this case.

“They’ll get theirs someday,” said Gary’s mother Jean.

If you have any information about this case, contact the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-KS-CRIME (800-572-7463).

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