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.
The break in the case came when DNA evidence found in the cab of Nelson's rig was linked to the suspect, who has a long criminal record.
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 on Jan. 4, is awaiting extradition to Alabama at the Randall County Jail in Amarillo, Tex., where he lives, authorities said.
Nelson's widow, Mary Ann Nelson, while pleased by the arrest, said Thursday it also has prompted a new round of mourning for her and her two adult children, Kelly and Bobby.
"It doesn't seem real," said Nelson, who retired five years ago from her job as a legal assistant in the Sonoma County criminal justice system. "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."
Her husband's body was found on July 2, 1999 by an inmate work crew along a rural stretch of Highway 85 about 20 miles outside of Montgomery.
He had been stabbed multiple times with a small knife, including a jab that opened an artery in his neck, authorities said.
The abandoned truck cab, blood spattered in its interior, was found 300 miles away at a north Georgia truck stop. The doors were unlocked, the keys were in the ignition and Nelson's heart and blood pressure medications were inside.
A receipt found inside indicated Nelson, 59, had fueled his big rig in Montgomery two days before his body was found. Missing were his wallet, a small television and an inverter used to run it, authorities said.
Unexplained semen was found in the truck cab as well as cigarette butts of a brand other than what Nelson smoked.
Nelson's refrigeration trailer - its load of frozen chicken parts putrid and stinking - was discovered <NO1><NO>later at another truck stop about 15 miles away.
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 link to a man now identified as Poisel. Despite repeated follow-up phone calls, she was unable to learn anything new in the case until an investigator informed her of the arrest Tuesday.
<NO1><NO>She also was told additional evidence, which was not explained, supported the arrest.
Alabama authorities have only provided 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 that two months after Nelson was killed, Poisel was incarcerated in Texas on separate, earlier cases related to criminal mischief and causing injury to a child that brought him two concurrent three-year prison sentences, authorities said.
He was released Jan. 8, 2002.
He later was imprisoned in August 2009 on two counts of possession of a controlled substance, hindering apprehension and evading arrest with a vehicle.