SANTA ANA, Calif. — A woman who killed her newlywed husband and chopped and cooked his body parts over Thanksgiving weekend in 1991 is seeking release from a California prison.
Omaima Nelson, an Egyptian-born former model and nanny, is set to appear before parole commissioners Wednesday at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla where she has been serving a life sentence.
Nelson was convicted of murdering her 56-year-old husband William Nelson in a grisly killing that authorities likened to the fictional slayings of Hannibal Lecter.
Prosecutors said the then-23-year-old killed Nelson and likely plotted to steal from him as she had done with other middle-aged men she had seduced in the past. Authorities said she tied up her husband of less than a month, killed him and dismembered the body, churning his parts through a garbage disposal that neighbors said ran nonstop in the hours after the murder.
Authorities found some of Nelson's body parts stuffed in garbage bags and mixed with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. His hands had been fried in oil and his head boiled and stuffed in freezer, said Randy Pawloski, a senior deputy district attorney in Orange County who prosecuted the case and will argue against her release.
"She's tremendously dangerous," said Pawloski, adding that Nelson sought help from two different boyfriends to try to remove her husband's teeth and dispose of his remains to cover her tracks.
During the highly publicized trial, Nelson took the stand and said she stabbed her husband – a former pilot and convicted drug smuggler – with scissors while he sexually assaulted her. A psychiatrist testified that she confessed to cooking her husband's ribs barbecue-style and tasting them but later denied engaging in cannibalism. He said he believed she was psychotic when she killed Nelson.
Defense attorney Thomas Mooney argued his client was circumcised as a child growing up in a squalid section of Cairo, which made sex extremely painful, and was repeatedly raped and abused by her husband in the weeks after the couple wed.
Jurors found Nelson not guilty of first-degree murder, citing insufficient evidence of premeditation, but convicted her of second-degree murder. They also found Nelson guilty of assaulting a former boyfriend with a gun.
She is serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Nelson appealed but lost in 1995. In 2006, she sought parole claiming she had found salvation as a born-again Christian and married an older man, who has since died. But parole was denied by commissioners who found her unpredictable and a serious threat to public safety.
Nelson told the parole board she had been living in the fast lane, hopping from man to man and drinking and using drugs. She told a prison-appointed psychologist that she had thought about killing Nelson before carrying out the murder.
"I felt that I was doing the right thing by exercising this judgment as I was killing him," she said during her 2006 parole hearing. "I'm not denying that I did what I did and I'm very sorry for the ... family..."
Terrence Scott, who represented Nelson on appeal, said he doubted she would be released except perhaps to a mental institution. He said she had chopped up her husband in an effort to avoid meeting him in the afterlife in accordance with Egyptian mythology.
Mooney, who represented Nelson during her trial, said prisoners serving life sentences aren't often released but hoped she might be.
"It was a question not of whodunit but what is it," Mooney said this week. "Based on the totality of the circumstances, the fact I think she was abused, and killed in response to that, she should get paroled."