HOUSTON -- Opening arguments are underway in the trial of a woman accused of kidnapping and killing a 12-year-old Houston boy on Christmas Eve in 2010.
Mona Yvette Nelson was charged with capital murder in the death of Jonathan Foster. Nelson has chosen to be tried by a judge, not a jury. Her attorney said he advised her against it.
Police said the 44-year-old maintenance worker kidnapped and killed Jonathan, then burned his body. Nelson admitted to discarding the boy’s body, but said she did not kill him.
Jonathan had been left alone at his mother’s apartment while she and her roommate worked that day.
Homicide investigator Mike Miller said investigators believe Nelson took the boy to her home, where she likely killed him and burned his body.
Investigators said a search of Nelson’s home turned up a “boatload” of evidence, but they had no clear motive.
Jonathan’s mother, Angela Davis, said she’d met Nelson only once, on the night of her son’s disappearance.
Nelson was friends with Davis’ roommate, Sharon Ennamorato, who frequently babysat for Foster.
Police said Ennamorato described Nelson as a friend who used to work in maintenance at an apartment complex across the street. Davis had moved into the home with Ennamorato on Dec. 14, after she and Jonathan’s stepfather split up.
Since both Davis and Ennamorato had to work on Christmas Eve, Foster was to stay home by himself until his mother returned. While at work that morning, a colleague told Davis her son had called the office and was asking for Ennamorato’s number.
According to information read at a probable cause hearing after Nelson’s arrest, Davis then received a phone call from a woman who made threatening remarks about her son. Concerned, Davis said she called her home phone repeatedly as she drove there.
She said an unknown woman finally answered around 2 p.m. – just minutes before she made it back to the apartment.
Davis said she asked the woman if she could speak to Jonathan.
Davis said she heard a woman ask her son, “Is your mama’s name Angela?” And then heard the little boy say, “Yes ma’am, my mama’s name is Angela,” before the line went dead.
When Davis got to the apartment moments later, she said cartoons were still on the TV, and a game was up on the computer screen.
But when she called for her son, she got no answer.
“The only thing missing in this house is his tan T-shirt with a guitar on it, a pair of jeans, his white sneakers and his black stuffed cat that my grandmother made him,” Davis said. “There was no struggle.”
A witness reported seeing a woman matching Nelson’s description pull up to Davis’ apartment in a gray or silver pickup truck near the time the threatening phone call was made.
Davis said Nelson stopped by the house later that night, saying she’d come over that morning looking for Ennamorato. Davis said Nelson told her that Jonathan had answered the door wearing no shirt, and it seemed like someone was in the house with him.
Davis reported Foster missing that night, but police didn’t issue an Amber Alert until Monday, citing conflicting stories from Davis and Foster’s stepfather.
Foster’s stepfather told police he’d met Nelson a few weeks before Foster’s disappearance, and witnesses said they’d seen her around the stepfather’s apartment complex, near 43rd Street and Shepherd.
After the Amber Alert was issued, Texas EquuSearch helped lead an effort to find the boy, but that search was later suspended.
Police said they were led to Nelson by surveillance video taken where the body was dumped. Investigators said the video showed what appeared to be a woman in a gray or silver pickup, with a chrome toolbox on the bed, stop on the side of the road near East Hardy and Schilder and discard a body.
Police arrested Nelson at her home and searched for evidence.
Investigators said they found burned carpet and twine that matched ties used to bind the child’s hands in Nelson’s apartment.
They said after further interrogation, Nelson admitted to disposing of the body, but not to the murder.
There was no word on a motive.
On Monday Nelson’s attorney was asking a judge to throw out Nelson’s statements to police, saying officers conducted an improper investigation. Nelson’s attorney peppered police about why she didn’t get an attorney and medical attention as soon as she asked for it.
Meanwhile, the boy’s family still has many questions.
“The family, the parents, and the grandparents that I’ve dealt with extensively on this, they feel like they got sucker punched,” said Andy Kahan, Victim Advocate for the city of Houston.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Nelson’s criminal history includes arrests for robbery, marijuana possession and making a terroristic threat.
She served a 10-year probated sentence for robbery back in 1984.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.