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Rockford Man Who Murdered His Six Children In 1978 Has Died In Prison

Illinois Department of Corrections

The man convicted of killing his six children in their Rockford home in 1978 died Sunday. Simon Peter Nelson died while still imprisoned for the crimes, according to a news release from Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato. He was 85.

Bruscato had been fighting Nelson’s latest attempt at parole. He was up for parole for the 19th time. There was a public petition campaign against his possible release, and his request for parole was to be ruled on by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in July.

Nelson was convicted and sentenced to 200 years in prison, but under old Illinois laws, he was eligible for parole every few years.

The murders shook Rockford in 1978 when the bodies of the six Nelson children and their family dog were found beaten and stabbed to death in their beds. Investigators said they had been killed with a rubber mallet and a knife.

Nelson was serving his sentence in Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, which is about halfway between Springfield and St. Louis. He died in a hospital where he had been on medical furlough. 

State's Attorney Joe Bruscato released the following statement:

“Nelson was one of Winnebago County’s most brutal killers, and the impact of his terrible crimes continue to haunt the community. For years, the State’s Attorney’s Office has worked to keep Nelson in prison for his heinous crimes. As always, our thoughts remain with the victim’s family and loved ones who continue to mourn the deaths of Nelson children almost 40 years ago. We as a community will continue to grieve the loss, and hope for continued healing for all who knew and loved those children.”

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.