In mid-November, 22-year-old C.J. Nelson Jr. was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of he 18-month-old Ja’Liyah Allen at Palm Coast’s Ranwood Lane in September.
Today, Sheriff Rick Staly announced that Nelson’s father, C.J. Nelson Sr., 46, was arrested on two charges of tampering with evidence in connection with the shooting, and two charges of providing false information to police during the investigation. The charges are third-degree felonies.
Discussing the case in September and again in November, Staly had spoken harshly of the fact that family members who were at the Ranwood Lane house at the time of the shooting had circled the wagons more than cooperated with the investigation. It turned out to be more serious than that.
Nelson Sr. was at his home on Princeton Lane at the time of the shooting. Yet father and son “were alone together” when law enforcement arrived at the scene of the shooting.
“We now know that CJ Nelson Sr. was called and arrived on site almost immediately after the shooting occurred,” Staly said, then “provided instructions on how to stage the scene.” Based on the investigation’s conclusions, Staly said Nelson took the firearm from his son, used a t-shirt to wipe it off of fingerprints, and placed it in the bedroom were deputies found it. He then allegedly concocted an alibi to tell deputies: that he and his son were both outside smoking at the time of the incident. He also advised his son to take a shower at the Princeton Lane home while other family members were at the hospital with the child, essentially cleansing himself of gunshot residue.
Subsequently, “C.J. Nelson Sr made veiled threats against members of the media, deputies, detective Gordon and myself,” Staly.
Nelson was taken into custody while he was putting money into his son’s account at the county jail, where the son has been held since the shooting. The father has been ordered to have no contact with his son. “Unfortunately, C.J. Nelson’s bond was set at only $15,000 and he posted the bond,” Staly said. The sheriff said he personally believe Nelson “is a threat to witnesses and to members of the Sheriff’s Office.”
“He knows just enough to take it to the line where we can’t arrest his ass for making a threat,” the sheriff said. “He’ll cross the line, eventually.”
Nelson Sr. in. 2016 drew headlines after an incident at Epic Theatres in Palm Coast, where he was accused of punching and knocking down a 16-year-old girl. The case went to trial, first on a stand-you-ground motion, which Nelson lost, then on the felony child abuse charge he faced. A jury exonerated him of the felony charge, convicting him on two misdemeanor counts of battery. He was sentenced to a month in jail and two years’ probation, which was terminated early. Much had been made during his trial and especially at sentencing by the fact that Nelson was the sole breadwinner for his five daughters and three sons.
One of the three sons is now facing the manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
Nelson Sr. had a prior conviction for cocaine sale, and served a prison stint, and had several other charges filed, though fewer convictions. “This case is a prime example that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He certainly won’t be Father of the Year,” the sheriff said.
“I get trying to protect your son,” Staly said. “But that’s not being a good parent. Hold your kids accountable.” “A father needs to be a father. This is not being a father.”
The investigation is not over. “It would not surprise me if other things occur,” Staly said, commending Kathryn Gordon, the lead detective on the case, for her investigation. Gordon appeared with Staly and detective George Hristakopoulos, who leads the Major Cases Unit, at a late-morning press conference at the Sheriff’s Operations Center.
The entire family of the deceased child feels “a whole range of emotions,” among them confusion and anger, Gordon said. “This is not the end of it for them.”