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Omaima Aree Nelson: The best way to a man’s heart

  • Written by Jason Johnson
One of the most bizarre things about the United States of America is the variability of our legal system.
 Dr. Jason Johnson

One of the most bizarre things about the United States of America is the variability of our legal system. You steal $100 and you go to jail, you steal a $100,000 and you have a congressional hearing and keep your fortune. A murder in one state will send you to the electric chair, but if you’re a different color and commit the same crime 20 miles away in another state you might get life in prison.

On Wednesday (Oct. 5), America once again bore witness to the bizarre vagaries of our legal system when Omaima Aree Nelson sought parole after serving 20 years in a California prison for one of the most ridiculous and grotesque crimes in U.S. history.

Nelson immigrated to the United States in 1986, and soon found work as a nanny while also working part time as a model. After a series of dysfunctional relationships with men since coming to the States, she finally thought she’d found the “one” when she met 56-year-old pilot William E. Nelson. In 1991, he swept the 23 year old off her feet with a one-month courtship. They were married and moved to his apartment in Costa Mesa, Calif. But after two months, the relationship got fairly complicated and there is no cut and dried way to explain what happened next.  

One morning in early December, Nelson ran to a neighbor’s apartment claiming that she had killed her husband after he tied her up and raped her. Of course, something seemed amiss when Jose Alfredo Esquivel finally made his way to Nelson’s apartment to help her. He witnessed a scene that made it hard to believe her story was completely on the up and up.  

Nelson had actually blungened her husband to death over the Thanksgiving weekend, then cut his body into pieces and spent days driving around the city in his red Corvette trying to get rid of the body parts. When that wasn’t working fast enough, she got a little more creative. She skinned his torso, decapitated the body and began frying and eating parts of her husband.

Esquivel testified that Nelson didn’t appear to have much remorse about her cannibalism after she dipped one of his ribs into barbeque sauce and once joked, “Nothing tastes as good as the man I married. It’s the sauce that does it.”

After realizing that she might’ve bitten off more than she could chew, the trophy wife-turned-cannibal offered Esquivel and several ex-boyfriends up to $75,000 to help her dispose of the body. When the police finally caught her with bloody garbage bags in her car and finally recovered the remains of William Nelson, they discovered that she had either eaten or hidden up to 80 pounds of his 230 lb frame.

Now I am the last person to pretend that this story isn’t rife with humorous opportunities for stand-up comedians for the next several days. In fact, I’m sure that even the history channel would get great ratings if they did an early 1990’s special on castration cases starting with Nelson and ending with Lorena Bobbitt and her penchant for taking out marital extremities.

However, there is a larger and slightly less humorous issue at play in this case that makes Nelson’s second appeal a sad affair as opposed to just an opportunity for penis jokes. The woman claimed in 1991 and today that she was sexually victimized as a child and that her husband brutally raped her at knifepoint over and over during their marriage before she snapped and killed him. In fact, psychologists at the time assessed that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that she was likely psychotic. She was still convicted and sentenced to 28 years to life.

I’m not suggesting that this woman be set free since she was raped, but it is worth noting that only a crazy person would cut their husband into bits and eat them. Moreover, in pointing out that this woman was a psychopath, we can’t discount the real problems associated with martial rape, especially in cases such as hers where relatively naïve foreigners are taken advantage of by lecherous men twice their age.

Nelson is likely too dangerous and unstable to ever be set free and that’s a good thing for society. Although I’m sure if she was let out, the former model would find plenty of suitors again. There are plenty of guys out there looking for a pretty woman who can cook.

(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture, and the politics of sports.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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