I-TEAM: 25 years after her disappearance, I-Team uncovers new details in Tiffany Nelson’s murder

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Monday, Oct. 7, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Tiffany Nelson went missing 25 years ago. Her body was found 14 years later in a wooded area in Burke County. Still, there have been no arrests in her case. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's been 25 years since she went missing from Augusta and 14 years since hunters stumbled on her bones in a shallow grave in Burke County.

We're talking about a 9-year-old girl named Tiffany Nelson. Her murder is still unsolved after all these years.

But now our I-Team has uncovered some new information that has investigators taking another look.

It all started out as innocently as a summer morning bike ride to a convenience store just a few blocks from where she lived in South Augusta.

“She would always make sure someone knew where she was at, and if she was at someone's home or anything of that nature, she would call,” Nelson’s cousin, Tracy, said.

Her family describes Nelson as a ball of energy, the light of their family, and a very happy girl despite all she had been through.

Nelson lost her mom to lymphoma just a couple of years before, so she lived with her Aunt Ora Mack and her cousins on Getzen Drive.

“My sister left her with me. She left her thinking I would take care of her,” Mack said. “And I didn't.”

Mack has never spoken publicly about this. But after all these years, the memories of that summer day in 1994 are still sharp. In some ways, they are even sharper now.

“I'm a CNA. I was on my way to go to work, and I never explained to them this,” Mack said. “There was a car that came through as I was going to work.”

Time has helped clear the haze of panic, confusion, and despair. Mack wonders now if that car could be connected. So does Doug Parker. He's retired from the GBI now, but he worked this case years ago.

“The driver of that car out here that morning. Black male, white male? Mid 40's. Kangol cap. He stopped and I stopped because I thought maybe he was lost or needed direction. He said, ‘I'm looking for a girlfriend,’” Parker said.

“Did he give a name? No. Did he have any facial hair? Clean shaven.”

That happened a few hours before Nelson would leave the house on the red bike her aunt bought her for Christmas. It was the first morning of summer vacation. Nelson never came back.

“It was broad daylight,” Parker said. “It couldn't have been a forced kidnapping. This had to be someone she was familiar with.”

Tyrone was Nelson’s older brother, and he loved her very much. In fact, she was wearing the Air Jordan sneakers he bought her when her bones were discovered 11 years later in the woods in Burke County.

Those sneakers helped investigators identify Nelson.

Tyrone died just two years after they recovered his sister's remains, but before he died, he told his aunt about the guilt eating away at him.

“He said, ‘I got into some trouble, auntie,’” Mack said. “Something to do with some man or boy. Had something to do with his wife. They got into it. And he took these people's drugs. ‘I took their drugs and I beat him up. I beat him up bad.’ I think he told me that because he was feeling guilty about what happened to Tiffany because he thinks he was involved or knew he was involved with what happened with Tiffany.”

Parker can back up that story. He interviewed Tyrone in prison to find out more about Nelson’s case. He was serving time for drugs. In that jailhouse interview, Tyrone told them he believed he was the reason Nelson was killed.

“That this was retaliation against him for the things he was involved in,” Parker said.

Which is why two of Tyrone's friends, speaking to Nelson at the gas station, may not have raised any red flags when she was missing. But it does raise red flags now all of these years later. With that admission, the strange car early that morning, and now the surfacing of a 911 recording, bring fresh details to the story.

“A lot of stuff I've thought about. The tape and all. And, I thought Sgt. Shipp would've discussed the tape with everybody,” Mack said.

“I'm unaware of the tape,” Parker said.

“You never heard of the tape?” Mack replied.

“No, ma'am,” Parker said.

Back in 1994, shortly after Nelson went missing, Mack says investigators called her down to the station to listen to a 911 call.

“A 911 call came in. On the tape, they wanted me to identify if that was Tiffany. It was so blubbered, but on the tape they called in and said somebody took me from my home. I want to go back to my home. All of a sudden, the phone slammed down,” Mack said.

She says the dispatcher asked who took her and the little girl gave two names. They were muffled, but now they sound eerily similar to Tyrone's two friends spotted at the gas station.

“I didn't have that information when I was looking into it,” Parker said. “That may be some new information we want to make sure the GBI has now.”

Someone knows exactly what happened to Nelson. Maybe more than one person.

“What did they do to my baby? Before she left here. I want to know what they did. I don't know how she died. I want to know what they did, and I want to know why,” Mack said.

“For someone to do something like this, justice has to be served,” Tracy said.

Investigators hope justice will come for the little girl on the shiny red bike who never had the chance to tell her family goodbye.

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