SIDNEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities say they are investigating whether the death of an 80-year-old man found killed in his bed is linked to a string of burglaries nearby.
Neighbors in the secluded area west of Stanton said they are afraid as Michigan State Police work to identify who killed Alan Nelson.
“It’s just gruesome, just terrible. It’s unbelievable, just sick people,” neighbor Ron Clock said on Tuesday.
Police say Alan Dale Nelson, who went by Dale, was found killed in his home at 591 Nelson Dr. in Sidney Township late Monday afternoon.
Nelson was supposed to go to a friend’s house for dinner on Monday, the friend told 24 Hour News 8. When he didn’t show up, the friend called a neighbor, who happens to be in law enforcement, to check on Nelson. The neighbor went to Nelson’s home around 5 p.m. and discovered he had been killed.
MSP won’t say how Nelson was killed, though they believe it happened during a break-in late Sunday.
Police later discovered three other homes nearby had been broken into, three of them are next to each other and the fourth is a couple houses down. Guns were stolen during at least one of those break-ins and later found ditched in nearby woods, police said — though it’s not yet known whether those guns were used in connection to the murder.
MSP Detective Sgt. Christian Clute said authorities are operating under the theory that the killer is a burglar who didn’t expect anyone to be in the house. They are investigating whether the death is connected to other break-ins in the area.
Neighbors say the houses around Nevins Lake are a mix of summer cottages and year-round homes and that Nelson lived alone in his home since his wife died several years ago.
“Real nice fella,” Clock said. “Real friendly, real nice.”
Around the north end of the lake, Nelson is a well-known name. His family has owned the land for years. He lived on Nelson Drive; hand-made signs called it Nelsonia. Clock, who lives next to Nelsonia, wonders why his home was spared. He and his wife returned home from Florida on Saturday.
The two houses next door — both empty — were burglarized, along with Nelson’s home. Clock said he wondered if somebody thought Nelson’s home was also vacant.
“It looked like there was nobody there,” he said. “His car is always in the garage, it’s always real neat around there, and I believe they broke in not knowing he was there. Why would you break into a house if you think somebody’s there, you know?”
A woman who lives across the lake said she didn’t know anything was wrong until she saw TV trucks.
“I just live down that way, a little ways, on the lake and it’s scary because I have kids, so yes, I’m scared,” she said.
State Police were trying to ease neighbors’ fears.
“I’d just like to assure them that we do have a lot of officers investigating this,” MSP First Lt. Kevin Sweeney said. “We’re working around the clock, we had people here all night working on this and we’re working with the sheriff’s department. We’re pulling in analysts from Lansing to help look to see if there are any patterns in the area.”
MSP also brought in a helicopter to get an aerial view to aid the investigation.
Clock told 24 Hour News 8 that burglars hit the area a year or two ago, breaking into a neighbor’s house, a trailer and his garage, but he wasn’t aware of anything recently.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post at 989.352.8444.