More than 11 years after the body of Petaluma trucker Bob Nelson was found dumped off the side of Interstate 85 outside Montgomery, Alabama, authorities have arrested a suspect in the case, apparently linked to the slaying by DNA evidence left in Nelson's rig.
Gary Lee Poisel Jr., 39, was arrested Tuesday in his home state of Texas for suspected murder and first-degree robbery, Alabama state authorities said.
Poisel, who was released from his last stay in prison Jan. 4, is awaiting extradition at the Randall County Jail in Amarillo, where he lives, authorities said.
Nelson's widow, Mary Ann Nelson, while pleased by the arrest, said it also has prompted a new round of mourning for her and her two adult children, Kelly and Bobby.
"It doesn't seem real," Nelson said Thursday, two days after she was informed of the arrest. "My first reaction was I was very, very happy. And of course I broke down into tears because I just never thought they were going to ever find anybody that was related to the case."
July 2 it will be 12 years since her husband's body was found by an inmate work crew along a rural stretch of Highway 85 about 20 miles outside of Montgomery.
A receipt later found in his truck cab indicated Nelson, 59, fueled his big rig in Montgomery two days earlier.
He had been stabbed multiple times with a small knife, including jab that opened an artery in his neck, authorities said.
It would be two weeks before he was identified.
The cab, blood spattered in its interior, was found abandoned about 300 miles away at a north Georgia truck stop - the doors unlocked, the keys in the ignition and Nelson's heart and blood pressure medications inside. It had been there for about two weeks, left there a day or two after Nelson's then-unidentified body was found.
Nelson's refrigeration trailer - its load of frozen chicken parts putrid and stinking - was discovered two days later at another truck stop about 15 miles away.
Missing were Nelson's wallet, a small television and an inverter used to run it, authorities said.
Unexplained semen was found in the truck cab as well a cigarette butts of a brand other than what Nelson smoked.
Mary Ann Nelson, who has had intermittent contact with various investigators on the case, said she was told at one point that DNA from the two samples matched.
Last March she got a call and was informed of a DNA hit that linked a man she now knows to be Poisel to the case, she said.
But despite repeated follow-up phone calls, she was unable to learn of anything new in the case until news Tuesday that at an arrest had been made.
She also was told additional evidence supported the arrest, though what it is she doesn't know.
Alabama authorities are being tight-lipped about the arrest, releasing little more than Poisel's name and the charges against him through a spokeswoman with the Alabama Department of Public Safety on Thursday.
Records with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice indicate Poisel was incarcerated in Texas two months after Nelson was killed on separate, earlier cases related to criminal mischief and causing injury to a child that earned him two concurrent three-year prison sentences, authorities said.