AURORA, Colo. — A woman pleaded not guilty after she was charged with multiple felonies when charred remains of a child were found in her apartment amid a search for her missing daughter in 2023.
Alexus Tanielle Nelson, 28, was arrested on May 30, 2023 on a charge of attempting to influence a public servant, but additional charges of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with physical evidence were added on June 1 after burned human remains were found in a patio closet at her apartment.
During a brief hearing Friday in an Arapahoe County County courtroom, Nelson entered a not guilty plea on all charges and the judge set a preliminary trial date for June 3, 2024.
The case began on May 30 after Nelson's mother — the child's grandmother — called police to request a welfare check on her 5-year-old granddaughter, who was reported missing, according to an arrest affidavit.
When police contacted Nelson, she said she had given the child up for adoption and she did not want the grandmother to know where the child was. However, police could not connect Nelson or her daughter to the agency that she claimed to have used for the adoption. She allowed investigators to look through her phone and they did not find any emails to an adoption agency and did not have any photos of the missing child, the affidavit reads. Nelson said she couldn't provide the name of the adoption agency and had either deleted or thrown away all the paperwork, according to the affidavit.
No Colorado courts — or the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services — had any record on file of an adoption involving the young girl, according to the document.
Nelson also allowed investigators to search her apartment for evidence. They only found an empty child's room with a dirty carpet, according to the affidavit.
Authorities also learned from a maintenance worker for Nelson's apartment complex that he had entered her apartment in early May for inspection work and noticed the unit's second bedroom was locked and a piece of rope connected the door to the bathroom door directly across the hall, as if to keep someone locked in the bedroom, the affidavit reads. When he cut the string, he found the door was locked and he then heard Nelson yelling at him through a baby monitor to leave, according to an affidavit.
Because Nelson had allegedly made misleading and false statements to the officers, she was arrested on a charge of attempting to influence a public servant around 9 p.m. on May 30, according to the arrest affidavit.
The police department's investigation into the missing girl continued, and included interviews with Nelson's family.
A family member told police she had grown concerned when Nelson began talking about "rehoming" the child. When she asked about this, Nelson said she had done a "closed adoption," according to the affidavit. On May 25, Nelson sent her mother a text saying "My rent has gone up again so rehoming and I’ve been looking at fostering," and when her mother asked for clarification if that referred to her daughter or a pet — the latter of which she did not have — Nelson did not reply, the affidavit reads.
Police obtained a search warrant for Nelson's apartment on May 31 around 1:30 p.m. and began searching the apartment for evidence around 6 p.m.
A detective opened a utility closet on the apartment's patio and recognized the odor of decomposing flesh, according to the affidavit. The closet was filled with children's items and a plastic bag inside a large shopping bag. Detectives found charred human remains consistent with the size of a child inside the bags, police said.
Affidavit: Aurora police found charred remains as they searched for missing girl
The Arapahoe County Coroner's Office arrived around 7 p.m.
Investigators also found bone fragments in ashes in the fireplace, according to the affidavit.
After the discovery of the remains, new charges were added against Nelson on June 1, including child abuse resulting in death, tampering with a deceased human body and tampering with physical evidence, police said. A supplementary affidavit was filed in connection with these new charges.
An autopsy was also conducted on June 1 for the child.
That same day, Nelson's bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety in connection with the charge of attempting to influence a public servant. With the addition of the three new charges related to the deceased child, her bond was increased to $2 million on July 19.