COSTA MESA — A former Costa Mesa resident who killed her husband and then cooked and ate parts of his body nearly 20 years ago is scheduled to appear before a parole board.
Omaima Aree Nelson is seeking early release from her 27-years-to-life sentence for murdering William E. Nelson, 56, over Thanksgiving weekend in 1991.
The Orange County district attorney's office opposes freeing her on the grounds that her crimes were especially heinous, and that she had a history of violence before killing her husband.
"This is probably one of the most egregious mutilations we've ever had," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Randy Pawloski, who prosecuted the case. "It is one of the most gruesome and notorious crimes ever committed in Orange County."
The hearing for Nelson, an Egyptian model who immigrated to the U.S. in 1986, is scheduled for Wednesday at Chowchilla State Prison in Central California, where she's incarcerated.
Nelson was in her 20s when she killed her husband three decades her senior and then dismembered and cooked parts of his body in their Costa Mesa apartment. The couple had been married for about a month.
After the murder, Nelson cooked her husband's head on the stove, skinned his torso, fried his hands in oil and planned to leave his skull in the Back Bay, according to Pawloski and news archives.
Nelson then drove garbage bags filled with the body parts to various ex-boyfriends, asking them to help dispose of the evidence and offering $75,000 for help. She was arrested Dec. 2, 1991, after police found trash bags containing human body parts in the couple's Eastside apartment and in William Nelson's Corvette.
Neighbors at the time said the garbage disposal was on for "a long time" and "constant chopping sounds" were coming from the home.
In court, a psychiatrist testified that Nelson put on red shoes, a red hat and red lipstick before spending hours chopping up her husband's body.
Nelson at one point admitted to dipping part of his body in barbecue sauce and tasting him — something she is now in "complete denial of," Pawloski said.
"Of course she says that [she doesn't remember] because the parole board doesn't want to let a cannibal out," he said.
According to Pawloski, Nelson was the first defendant to used the "battered wife" defense in Orange County, claiming her husband raped her the night before she killed him.
The lead detective on the case, former Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Bob Phillips, said Nelson had an odd demeanor during hours of interviewing.
"It was the most gruesome case I saw," said Phillips, who was with the department for 32 years. "She did not seem like a person that was coherent.
"She was up for many, many days trying to complete this crime and it might have been sleep deprivation and general fatigue from dismembering a body."
At the time of Nelson's arrest, Phillips told the Los Angeles Times, "Omaima Nelson is the most bizarre and sick individual I've had the occasion to meet.
No one needs to look to the Dahmers of Milwaukee or the Hannibal Lecters of the screen. A new predator has emerged, named Omaima."
Omaima Nelson is now in her 40s; newspaper archives say she was 24 at the time of the crime but criminal records listed her as being 27.