When his ex-girlfriend threw a diaper box at him during an argument in her home last week, Joseph L. Nelson shot her to death — then killed her toddler son and another teen who witnessed the crime, Jackson Count prosecutors said Thursday.
They charged Nelson with three counts of first-degree murder and four other crimes in connection with the Sept. 8 slayings in a south Kansas City home.
Witnesses, including one person who helped Nelson pick up spent shell casings at the scene, proved vital in solving the killings of Bianca R. Fletcher, 17, Shannon Rollins Jr., 18, and Fletcher’s 1-year-old son, Joseph, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said as she announced the charges Thursday morning.
“To those who say witnesses don’t come forward, you’re wrong,” Baker said. “To those who confuse a witness and a snitch, you’re wrong.
Baker would not say whether Nelson was Joseph’s father.
Fletcher’s brother found the bodies after returning to the home in the 5900 block of East 84th Street. He ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
According to court documents:
Nelson told a person that after the diaper box thrown by Fletcher hit him in the head, “he lost it.” After he killed her, “other things had to be done.”
He shot Rollins and the baby because they were witnesses, he reportedly said. He also feared the baby’s cries would alert neighbors.
Nelson allegedly picked up his shell casings, went home, showered several times and washed his hands with bleach. He sold the gun. He burned his clothes on a grill at his home.
He told one person, “I did something bad. I did something I don’t think I can live with.” When the listener prodded him, Nelson reportedly said, “I killed them. I killed them.”
The next morning, Nelson reported to police that two firearms and ammunition had been stolen from his vehicle.
Prosecutors said he also stole personal items from the victims.
After his arrest, Nelson told police he had been home asleep most of Sept. 8. He denied any involvement in the killings.
Nelson previously had been in a long-term relationship with Fletcher, Baker said. Fletcher was a student at Raytown South High School.
Richard Fletcher, who lost his daughter and grandson, released a statement through prosecutors in which he thanked investigators.
“This is for all. Not just my family,” the statement said. “My daughter and grandson were precious. We are hurting and angry but we are grateful justice is being sought.”
He described Rollins as “a very good influence on my daughter.”
“We will miss him,” the statement said.
Rollins, who left a 1-year-old son, was an avid dancer who recently performed with local rapper Tech N9ne. He also was part of a freestyle dancing crew called #FindOut whose movements fused various elements of breakdancing, pop-locking and hip-hop. They performed at graduation parties, schools and birthday parties.
“Shannon was our heart,” a statement from his family said. “Our child was a wonderful young man, full of life. He loved everyone. He tried to help those he could. Each of us needs to teach our kids how to solve problems without senseless violence, without resorting to a gun. …
“The loss is unbearable for us, but we will find strength in God. And the light of the world is just a little more dim because Shannon’s light no longer burns.”
Police arrested Nelson on Wednesday at his home.
Prosecutors charged him Thursday with burglary, three counts of armed criminal action and the three murder charges. They requested he be held in lieu of a $1 million bond.
Baker thanked Kansas City police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their work in the case, which continues to be investigated.
She also praised witnesses.
“This is a case that had multiple witnesses that came forward, that told us what happened,” she said. “And so I challenge that notion, that witnesses don’t come forward, they do.”
Baker said investigators and prosecutors have been working long hours on this case and others, including an Independence home invasion that left one person in critical condition, a fatal Raytown shooting and 13 homicides this month alone in Kansas City.
“We have had a very tough, violent few weeks,” she said.
But the heavy caseload will not deter investigators or her office, Baker said.
“These were real people and they were taken from our community, and I’m here to get justice for them.”