Man appears Tues. on charges he murdered wife, neighbors

MYRTLE POINT, Ore. -- The Coos County Grand Jury returned an indictment Thursday afternoon that charged Myrtle Point man with six counts of aggravated murder and three counts of first-degree arson, District Attorney Paul Frasier said.

Edward Nelson, 65, of Myrtle Point, is scheduled for arraignment on th emorning of Tuesday, June 25.

Nelson was formally charged aggravated murder and arson Tuesday after he was accused of murdering his wife and neighbors before setting their homes on fire last weekend.

District Attorney Frasier said an autopsy was also completed Thursday afternoon to identify the bodies found in the home next door to Nelson. The coroner confirmed that both died from gunshot wounds.

As the neighboring home was destroyed by fire, both the remains were also badly damaged. Officials said detectives are still working with dental records and DNA testing to confirm the identity of the bodies.

The remains are believed to have been Nelson's elderly neighbors, Renae and Lola Cottam.

Officers arrested 65-year-old Nelson on aggravated murder and arson charges just over an hour after emergency crews responded to the burning homes.

Emergency crews were called out to a fire at a home on Big Creek Road at around 8:45 p.m. Saturday night. Coos County District Attorney Frasier said the first officers on-scene found the body of a woman inside the house, who died of apparent "homicidal violence".

The DA's office later confirmed that the woman was Nelson's wife, Kathleen.

Frasier said that someone intentionally set the fire, but it was extinguished before the flames caused too much damage.

While officers were at the scene, they noticed that a neighboring house and outbuilding were also on fire. Firefighters quickly put out the fire at the outbuilding, but the home was destroyed. Investigators believe those fires were also intentionally set.

District Attorney Frasier said that the two residents of that home were believed to be inside when the home burned.

"The remains of two people had been located in the residence destroyed by fire," Frasier said in a news release. "Due to the condition of the bodies, a positive identification cannot be made at this time."

Officials said they believe the bodies belong to the residents Renae Cottam, 73 and his wife Lola, also age 73.

It appears all the involved victims had been killed before the fires started, investigators said.

A witness at the scene gave police a description of Nelson as well as a description of his vehicle. State troopers stopped Nelson on Highway 42 at around 10:15 p.m. Saturday, officials said.

Nelson was booked at the Coos County jail on three counts of aggravated murder and three counts of arson. District Attorney Frasier said he plans to file formal charges against Nelson on Monday.

Anyone with information on the case is encouraged to call the Coos County Sheriff's Office.