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‘He’s a dirtbag’: Flagler sheriff says man tampered with crime scene, lied after 1-year-old killed in Palm Coast

By Marlei Martinez

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    PALM COAST, Florida (WESH) — On Monday, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly held a news conference announcing a new arrest in connection to the shooting death of an 18-month-old child in Palm Coast in September of 2023.

The baby’s uncle, CJ Nelson Jr., has already been in jail since the shooting happened. In November, he was charged with manslaughter.

On Monday, the sheriff announced that the suspected shooter’s father, CJ Nelson Sr., has also been arrested for allegedly tampering with evidence and lying to law enforcement during the investigation.

Staly said it was obvious that evidence was tampered with and witnesses to the shooting were not telling the truth.

In November, officials said CJ Nelson Jr. was the one who fired the shot that killed the girl. His DNA and fingerprints were taken from the gun deputies recovered from the scene.

Officials also added that 21-year-old Nelson Jr. was impaired and high on marijuana while handling the firearm.

Nelson Jr. “was trying to be a punk gangster,” Staly said. The sheriff said he was showing off the gun when it went off.

On Monday, Staly said in the immediate moments following the shooting, Nelson Sr. was called and showed up at the house.

“He provided instructions on how to stage the scene,” the sheriff said.

According to the charging affidavit, Nelson Sr. allegedly took the gun from his son with a shirt, moved it to the room where deputies found it, told others in the house to provide them an alibi and instructed his son to take a shower to try to remove evidence from his body while relatives were at the hospital with the baby.

“You may be wondering how CJ Nelson knew how to stage a crime scene and what to do. Well frankly, he’s a dirtbag,” said Staly. “And he probably learned it in prison. He has multiple arrests, a total of 18 charges since 2003: nine misdemeanors, nine felonies.”

Nelson Sr. was arrested on Friday and now faces two counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of providing false information to law enforcement during an investigation. According to the sheriff’s office, the charges typically carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“This case is a prime example that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He certainly will never be father of the year,” said Staly. “I hope he and his son enjoy prison.”

Nelson Sr. is now out of jail after posting bond.

“Unfortunately, CJ Nelson Sr.’s bond was set at only $15,000 and he posted the bond and was released,” Staly said.

Staly said he met with the State Attorney on Monday morning. He said his team is trying to get a higher bond set or a bond revocation because he believes that Nelson Sr. is a threat.

“Investigators also listened to and obtained jail phone recordings where CJ Nelson Sr. made veiled threats against members of the media, deputies, Detective Gordon and myself,” Staly said. “I personally believe CJ Nelson Sr. is a threat to witnesses and to members of the sheriff’s office.”

That is now up to the court to decide. In the meantime, the sheriff said the investigation is still not over.

“I get trying to protect your son or your child. But that’s not being a good parent. Hold your kids accountable. But he doesn’t hold himself accountable. So of course, he’s not going to hold his kids accountable. He’s going to train his kids how to be a dirtbag, how to be a criminal,” Staly said.

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