Man who killed his 6 kids gets another chance for parole

Aaron Chambers

Simon Peter Nelson, who 30 years ago killed his six children as they slept in Rockford, will get another chance Tuesday to plead his case for release from prison.

Nelson is scheduled to meet an individual member of the state Prisoner Review Board at the Graham Correctional Center near Hills­boro, where he is serving a sentence of 100 to 200 years.

On June 19, the full Prisoner Review Board is expected to vote on whether to grant parole.

Nelson, 76, killed his children — Jenny, 12; Simon Peter III, 10; Andrew, 8; Matthew, 7; Roseann, 6; and David, 3 — and the family dog with a rubber mallet and knife on Jan. 17, 1978.

Then he drove to Milwaukee and beat his wife, who was seeking a divorce.

Nelson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 100 to 200 years. He was first eligible for parole in 1986. The state has denied him parole at least 14 times.

More than 1,600 people have signed electronic petitions against Nelson's parole.

Nelson and others sentenced under the former indeterminate sentencing system are eligible for parole every year. The board can vote to suspend parole eligibility for three years, as it has with Nelson, when members believe they probably won’t parole the prisoner during that time.

During a meeting with a Prisoner Review Board member in 2004, Nelson expressed remorse for his crime.

“If I could change history and there not be a crime, that would be my greatest wish. I can’t do that,” he said. “I do apologize to my family and friends, the Rockford community and everyone else that’s been hurt by this event.”

But Nelson would not articulate the specifics of his crime. He insisted he experienced “amnesia” during the murders.

“I just remember bits and pieces of sheer horror,” he said at the time.

Nelson blamed his father for planting anger he carried through the 1978 murders. After his father committed suicide in 1954, Nelson said, he made the mistake of reading his father’s diary. There, he said, he discovered his father blamed his own family for his “despondency.”

Nelson said he never experienced “a grieving process” related to his father, that his own anger “lay hidden all these years” and that he never resolved his anger “until after I was incarcerated.”

Nelson said the last thing he remembered before the murders was a phone call from his wife Ann. He said she told him, “I don’t love you anymore.”

“That’s when the lights went off in my mind,” he said. “I snapped. And I felt like it was my dad all over again.”

He said he heard voices and “saw things” that he knows did not exist. He said he felt his dead father’s presence at the crime scene.

“All I remember is being split somehow and my father being present — and again, this is irrational — and my telling him not to go up the stairs,” he said.

“This was after I had imagined that I killed myself.”

Aaron Chambers can be reached at (217) 782-2959 or