Community reacts to death of Little Falls man

By JOLEEN FERRIS

LITTLE FALLS, N.Y. (WKTV) - State Police say 28-year-old murder suspect Jennifer Riesel claims that victim Francis Nelson, 74, was paying her $180,000 to kill him because he was terminally ill.

A landowner checking farmland off Eatonville Road Tuesday morning found Nelson's body. His hands and feet were tied and an autopsy would reveal he was run over by a car.

Investigators say Riesel borrowed a friend's car to run over Nelson. They say others have approached them, indicating that Nelson may have asked them, too, to end his life. Suspect Riesel is not unknown to police.

"There's not an extensive criminal history, there's a few pending charges that she has. She's got a pending grand larceny charge and a pending forgery charge from an earlier event," says NYS Police Captain Mark Lincoln.

Prosecutors say that if someone is assisting someone in committing suicide, the charge could be less than murder.

"There is an affirmative defense in the law which is assisting or causing or aiding someone to commit suicide tied to the murder second-degree statute so if raised by the defendant that may be something we will address..... well, it actually would reduce it to manslaughter in the second-degree," says Herkimer County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter.

Ann Marie Walrath was at the German Maennerchor on East Main in Little Falls Thursday afternoon. Victim Nelson was the Maennerchor president, and a family friend of Walrath for more than 20 years.

"The type of person he was was very caring, very well mannered, he was just a sweetheart......very shocked, exceedingly shocked, and in such a manner that was so brutal, very shocked something like that could happen," says Walrath.

Police say that, so far, they have no evidence Nelson suffered from a terminal illness, but they are awaiting some medical test results. Walrath says the story being advanced by the 28-year-old suspect just doesn't ring true.

"In speaking with the family, the close family members that I'm close with, no one knew anything about him being terminally ill," Walrath said.

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