Woman Charged in Death of Fifth-Grader

A family acquaintance was arrested Wednesday morning.

December 29, 2010, 12:15 PM

Dec. 29, 2010 — -- A family acquaintance has been charged with capital murder in the case of Jonathan Foster, a 12-year-old Texas boy last seen Christmas Eve before a burned body believed to be his was found Tuesday, according to local media reports.

Mona Yvette Nelson, 44, an acquaintance of Foster's family, was named a person of interest early Wednesday and questioned by police, ABC News station KTRK in Houston reported. The Harris County, Texas, District Attorney's Office later told KTRK that it had accepted capital murder charges against Nelson.

The Houston Chronicle, citing police, reported Nelson was arrested Wednesday morning at her home.

According to the Chronicle, Nelson's truck was seen on surveillance video from an office near where Texas authorities found the burned body five miles from Foster's home.

After an autopsy, that body was identified as the fifth-grader's, police told KTRK.

A Houston 911 emergency supervisor declined to discuss the case with ABCNews.com late Wednesday, referring all questions to the police media relations department. However, a voicemail message indicated the department was closed.

Earlier, police told ABCNews.com that the charred body had not been identified and there was some hope Foster would be found alive.

"The body ... is that of a child, but it was so badly burned that we can't determine the gender or identification," Houston Police Department spokesman Kese Smith told ABCNews.com. "The Medical Examiner's office has that unfortunate task to determine, and until that happens, we are treating these two incidents as separate cases.

"We are still running leads down on Jonathan Foster, and we'd very much like to find him alive," Smith said at the time.

Calls made to the Houston Medical Examiner's office were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan Foster Case: Hope for a Happy Ending

Foster's grandmother also held out hope that the burned body was not her grandson's.

"I'm trying to stay positive and trying to stay strong and believe he's still out there and will come home," said the grandmother, Mary Gifford.

Gifford told ABC News that the ordeal has been "like a roller coaster" and that she prayed for the safe return of Jonathan, who last was seen Dec. 24 at the Houston home he shared with his mother, Angela Davis, and his stepfather, David Davis.

"My gut feeling is mixed," said Gifford. "Sometimes, I think that something has happened to him, and he's not coming back, and other times I think he's safe and he's coming home."

Gifford said she knows something must have happened to her grandson, because he would never run away from his mother, whom he had just started living with again last month. According to Gifford, Jonathan had been counting down the days when he would be reunited with his mother, who was "getting her stuff together" after "going through some things."

Jonathan is believed to have been last seen Christmas Eve day at 1:45 p.m. by his stepfather, but a disturbing phone call between the child and his mother had Gifford and authorities worried.

Gifford said that when her daughter returned a call from her son, who had left a message at her office Friday, a woman she did not know picked up the phone.

"My daughter asked to speak with her son, and then the woman asked [Jonathan] if Angela was his mother," said Gifford. "He said, 'Yes m'am, Angela is my mother,' and then the phone went dead."

Gifford said neither she nor her daughter, who ABC News could not immediately reach, had any idea who this mystery woman may be.

An Amber Alert was issued for Jonathan Foster Monday afternoon, which Gifford said was far too late.

"Regardless of how this turns out, my goal is to get the Amber Alert law changed," she said. "There should not be criteria for an Amber Alert that depends on whether cops think the kid has run away.

"The cops kept thinking [Jonathan] ran away," she said. "But he had waited too many years to go back with his mama, that's what he wished for on his birthdays, to be back with his mama.

"That doesn't sound like a kid who wants to run," said Gifford.

Smith defended the timing of the Amber Alert, saying that conflicting accounts of what happened the day Jonathan went missing made the case even harder for investigators.

While he wouldn't specify what the conflicting stories were about in great detail, Smith said that the mother had originally said that Jonathan was home with a babysitter when he went missing but later said he had been at home alone.

Only when they could pin down an accurate description of the boy, as well as identify the person who might have been with him at the time of his disappearance -- a woman with a raspy voice -- the officers issued an Amber Alert.

"If we issued an Amber Alert on every case we'd be inundating the public with alerts for children who really did just run away," said Smith.

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