After bludgeoning her husband to death on Thanksgiving 1991, Omaima Nelson butchered his body, fried his hands in oil, cooked his head, and mixed his remains with leftover turkey.
Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions and/or images of violent, disturbing, or otherwise potentially distressing events.
Omaima Nelson was an Egyptian model who immigrated to the United States when she was 18. But just a few years later, she would be embroiled in a bizarre and gruesome criminal trial that would lead to comparisons between her and Hannibal Lecter and Jeffrey Dahmer.
The reason for these comparisons? Nelson had been accused of bludgeoning her husband of only one month to death — before chopping up his body, cooking his head, and frying his hands in oil.
The 23-year-old said her new groom had sexually assaulted her and she’d killed him in self-defense — but prosecutors said the murder was part of a plot to rob her husband, fitting with Nelson’s reported history of conning older men using sex.
So, what really happened between Bill and Omaima Nelson?
Omaima Nelson’s Early Life And Move To The United States
Omaima Nelson was born in Egypt in 1968 and grew up in Cairo. As a child, Nelson would claim, she was subjected to abuse and female genital mutilation.
In 1986, she immigrated to the United States, where she found work as a nanny and a model in California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Omaima, a “beauty with cut-glass cheekbones,” met Bill Nelson in 1991 at a bar playing pool.
Bill used to be a pilot, but in 1984, he was convicted of smuggling marijuana. After serving a four-year prison sentence in a federal prison, he was released on parole and got a job at a mortgage company.
Prosecutors later said that before their meeting, Omaima had allegedly begun using her beauty to get several older men to lavish her with money, paying for her rent and buying her cars.
After knowing each other for just a few days, the two got married. Bill, 56, was 33 years older than his new wife.
“They were real quiet, mysterious people,” the president of Bill’s company, Sue Swanson, told the Los Angeles Times in 1991. She said Bill had met Omaima, “and all of a sudden they were married.”
According to acquaintances, the couple spent their honeymoon visiting Bill’s relatives in Texas and Arkansas. But the honeymoon phase didn’t last long.
An Unhappy Marriage — And A Brutal Revenge
Omaima Nelson said once they were married, Bill started showing his violent side, physically and sexually abusing her during their short union.
Then, Omaima claimed, on Thanksgiving weekend in 1991, Bill sexually assaulted her in their Costa Mesa, California apartment. She claimed he tried to rape and then strangle her. She grabbed a lamp and hit him with it in self-defense before stabbing him with scissors and killing him.
But the dramatic evening didn’t end there.
Omaima Nelson then cut up her deceased husband, boiling his head and cooking his hands in oil. It was also reported that she castrated him in revenge for the assault.
“If I didn’t defend my life, I would have been dead. I’m sorry it happened, but I’m glad I lived,” she would say later, adding, “I’m sorry I dismembered him.”
In one court report, a psychiatrist testified that Nelson told him she had put on red shoes, a red hat, and red lipstick before “preparing” her husband.
The psychiatrist also testified that Nelson initially told him she had eaten her husband’s ribs, but later denied it.
Omaima reportedly said that after preparing Bill Nelson’s ribs with barbecue sauce “like in a restaurant,” she exclaimed, “It’s so sweet!”
An Investigation Is Launched Into Bill Nelson’s Disappearance
That weekend, Omaima Nelson mixed her husband’s remains with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
She disposed of what she could in the garbage disposal before wrapping the remaining body parts in newspaper and putting them in trash bags.
Then, she drove to a friend’s house and showed her the trash bag she’d stuffed in the back of Bill’s red 1975 Corvette. She allegedly offered the friend $75,000 to help her dispose of it.
The friend immediately reported what had happened to the police.
Authorities sorted through the bag from the car as Nelson looked on quietly. Because the body was so dismembered, police couldn’t immediately identify the remains. They also couldn’t determine a cause of death due to the body’s condition.
The police detained Omaima for questioning, which lasted all that Sunday night.
Meanwhile, Bill was reported missing after he didn’t show up to work on the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday. Swanson told police the last time she saw him was just before he left on the Wednesday before the long weekend.
Police also searched the Nelsons’ apartment and found more bags containing body parts inside. Randolph Pawloski, the Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney, was at the apartment that day.
“There were suitcases and plastic bags soaked with dark liquid from his body parts. In the fry cooker there sat Mr. Nelson’s hands, and when we opened the refrigerator there was Mr. Nelson’s head with stab wounds,” Pawloski said. “She had his entrails in his Corvette, and she was trying to get an ex-boyfriend to yank out the dentures from the head so she could dump it in the Back Bay.”
However, much of Mr. Nelson’s body was still missing. During the later trial, Pawloski described it as “about 130 pounds.”
“We’re missing about 130 pounds of Bill,” Pawloski said, according to the Los Angeles Times in 1992. “You know where he might have gone?”
“No, he was all there,” Omaima said.
Omaima Nelson’s Murder Trial
In December 1992, the trial for Bill Nelson’s murder began.
There was no dispute that Omaima Nelson killed him. Still, her attorney, public defender Thomas G. Mooney, said she had acted in self-defense after her husband attempted to rape her that night.
Mooney also said that Nelson had been involved in other abusive relationships and as a result, had long been suffering from battered woman syndrome. The condition took a psychological toll on her, ultimately leading to the November 1991 killing.
Nelson had told authorities she was under severe stress because her husband was physically and sexually abusive. She was given a psychological evaluation, revealing that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The prosecution, on the other hand, said that Nelson had other motives. They believed she was plotting to steal from her husband and that she had a history of using her sexuality to con older men for their money.
In January 1993, Omaima Nelson was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 28 years to life at the Central California Women’s facility in Chowchilla.
Attempts At Parole
Omaima Nelson was first eligible for parole in 2006 but was denied, as she was found to be an unpredictable threat to public safety.
She remarried while in prison – this time to a man in his 70s, who died before her second bid for parole in 2011.
After a five-and-half-hour hearing, she was denied once again.
The Los Angeles Times reported that at her parole hearing, Nelson said she was a changed person who had “looked for love in all the wrong places,” but now, she said, “I have a strong desire to help others.”
Nelson also vehemently denied eating her husband. “I swear to God I did not eat any part of him,” she said. “I am not a monster.”
But when the parole commissioner asked her what was her purpose in cooking him, Nelson refused to answer. Omaima Nelson isn’t eligible for parole again until 2026.