San Juan County Sheriff's Office identifies shooter in Monday's murder-suicide

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

AZTEC — The San Juan County Sheriff's Office identified the suspected shooter in Monday's murder-suicide as 51-year-old Nyles Nelson.

Ruth McLain, Nelson's ex-wife, said Nelson was the son of famed jazz musician Oliver Nelson, known for the 1961 album "The Blues and the Abstract Truth." Oliver Nelson also composed music for television shows, including "Columbo" and "The Six Million Dollar Man."

"I would never of thought of him to do that," said McLain, when reached by telephone at her home in Clever, Mo. "He was quiet."

Erika Brown, 24, identified by police as the victim in the shooting, was born and raised in Aztec and graduated from San Juan College in 2011. Her mother, Renee Nordman-Mendias, said her daughter loved photography, writing and animals. She worked for several years as a manager in the vitamin department of Natural Grocers in Farmington.

"One of her favorite quotes: A butterfly knows not days, but moments, and that is enough," Nordman-Mendias said. "That is all I got with her, was moments."

She said her daughter dated Nyles Nelson for a while but spoke often about leaving the relationship.

"She had a lot of dreams for the future, if she could only get away from Nyles," she said.

According to a press release from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, deputies were dispatched at 1 p.m. Monday to Unit 21 County Road 3133 in Aztec after receiving reports that two bodies were outside the home.

Nelson and Brown were confirmed dead of apparent gunshot wounds and a subsequent investigation showed Nelson fatally shot Brown before taking his own life, the release states.

Detective Lt. Cory Tanner said Monday that several neighbors reported hearing gunshots Sunday afternoon, but it was not reported to authorities. Police suspect that is when the shooting occurred.

Nordman-Mendias lamented the fact that her daughter's body was not discovered sooner.

"We got neighbors all around us, but nobody knows anybody," she said. "She laid out there for a day."

Nordman-Mendias said her daughter earned an associate degree in digital media arts and design from San Juan College. She was writing a book, her mother said, and was a fan of authors Philip K. Dick and Anne Rice.

Maggie March, store manager at Natural Grocers, said Brown has been an employee of the grocer since the location opened in December 2010. She was a department manager in the vitamin department at the time of her death.

"She was very gentle and always kind," she said. "She is exemplary, really. A good example for the rest of us on how to be patient and kind with our customers."

March said the staff wished to express their condolences to the family.

Brown is preceded in death by her father, Eric, who took his own life in May 2006.

McLain said she was married for five years to Nyles Nelson. According to court records, McLain filed for divorce in 2000.

"It was just one of those things," she said. "It didn't work out for us."

She said Nyles Nelson grew up in Macon, Mo., and is survived by a half-brother, Oliver Nelson Jr. He is preceded in death by his father and his mother, Audrey McEwen.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.