HERKIMER, N.Y. — A New York woman is accused of running over a bound man who she said promised her $180,000 if she ended his life, but police said they have no evidence he wanted to die.
Francis Nelson, 74, was found dead, his hands and feet still tied, near his abandoned car on a rural road in upstate Herkimer County on Tuesday morning. On Thursday, Jennifer Riesel, a 28-year-old woman who met Nelson through a social club in their hometown of Little Falls, was charged with his murder.
Trooper Jack Keller said Riesel told investigators that Nelson had asked her to kill him, saying she'd get $180,000 after his death.
"We're still not sure how that arrangement was going to be made," Keller said. "But that was the ultimate deal."
The results of toxicology tests aren't yet available, but Keller said there was no evidence Nelson suffered from a serious or terminal illness and nothing indicating he was despondent. He said no money ever changed hands, Nelson's back accounts were all in order and there was no sign of thievery.
"It's still being looked into, but we have no reason to believe he was suicidal," Keller said. "He was well-liked in the community and hardworking."
Known as "Mickey," Nelson lived alone and was retired after working at the wastewater treatment plant in Little Falls, a small city on the Mohawk River about 60 miles west of Albany. He was president of the local German Maennerchor social club, where he met the unemployed Riesel, Keller said.
Investigators believe Nelson was killed sometime early Tuesday. Relatives said he was last seen at 7 p.m. Monday. Keller said Riesel ran him over with a car borrowed from a friend.
A farmer checking a car parked on a seasonal road found Nelson's body, 10 feet from his car, which was turned off with the keys in the ignition.
Keller said investigators can't explain why Nelson was still tied up when he was found, but Riesel's lawyer said Nelson chose the way he would die, planning it to look like a violent robbery.
Nelson approached Riesel several months ago about wanting to end his life, said the defense lawyer, Ed Kaminski. Riesel had known Nelson for about four years and they had a relationship almost like grandfather and granddaughter, Kaminski said.
"This incident did not emanate from greed and certainly not hate, but rather it came from compassion, although misguided compassion," he said.
"Obviously it's a terrible human tragedy for everyone concerned," Kaminsky added.
Keller would not comment on what led police to Riesel.
She was jailed Thursday without bail on a second-degree murder charge.