Dr. William Nelson could be a surly man, given to walking around outside of his medical clinic in Redfern Village on St. Simons Island with a handgun holstered to his hip. So say business neighbors of Nelson, who was found dead by gunshot Monday evening along with his 51-year-old ex-girlfriend, according to Glynn County Police.
Police have determined that Nelson, 63, and Catherine Tortorete died in a murder-suicide. However, both Nelson and Tortorete were armed during the deadly encounter, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said. Police are not saying at this point which of the two is suspected of committing both murder and suicide. Both were St. Simons Island residents. Their bodies have been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for autopsies.
Nelson and Tortorete had filed restraining orders against each other in Glynn County Magistrate Court, court records show. Records also show another man obtained a restraining order against Tortorete last month.
Nelson lived where he practiced medicine at his St. Simons Island Clinic at 284 Redfern Drive, located in a cul-de-sac connected to the main loop of Redfern Village.
Mike and Bill Fredericks’ father-and-son Watermarks Printing business is caddy- corner to Nelson’s office on the back end of both. While upset about the two deaths that occurred in such close proximity, the two men could not ignore their observations over the years that Nelson displayed “strange” behavior.
Nelson could be seen outside the building often. At times he wore a handgun in a holster on his hip, the Frederickses said. A wooden border fence along the walkway in back of Nelson’s office is posted “Private Property No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog.” He once yelled at teenagers for using the concrete walkway to cut through the property.
“I said, ‘Hey, chill out. They’re just kids,’” Mike Fredericks recalled.
An hour later, Nelson apologized to Mike Fredericks for his behavior and vowed to make amends by taking the kids to dinner.
The two men often noticed Nelson peeking through his fence when they stepped onto their office’s gazebo.
“I just always avoided him,” Mike Fredericks said.
His dogs barked loudly and often, Bill Fredericks said.
“He was sort of unpredictable,” Bill Fredericks said. “He had a weird personality.”
Another long-time business owner on Redfern Drive near Nelson’s office had similar observations.
Nelson had visitors who often loitered in the parking lot, said the man, who wished to remain anonymous. The man often had to tell Nelson’s visitors they could not park in front of his building.
“I’ve been here nine years and it’s always been problematic,” he said. “People were always hanging out in the parking lot.”
Someone discovered a body in or near Nelson’s St. Simons Island Clinic at 5:45 p.m. Monday and called 911. Police arrived and discovered the bodies of Tortorete and Nelson. Police immediately established a large perimeter around the building with crime scene tape.
The back of Nelson’s building also abuts the dirt parking lot used by Outback Steakhouse, 1609 Frederica Road. Dogs could be heard barking loudly and often from inside the building shortly after 6 p.m. Monday.
The 911 dispatch communications to first responders on Monday described a woman at the scene as being hysterical over the discovery of the body. Two men and a woman in the Outback parking lot appeared distraught as police investigated the scene, and one man indicated with a nod that they knew one of the deceased. He politely declined further comment.
On Jan. 25, Tortorete filed a warrant against Nelson, claiming he was “possessive and obsessed” and said she “was fearful he would stab me in my sleep,” court records show. Tortorete said she found Nelson parked in front of her home at 533 Brockington South after telling him that she wanted to be alone. Additionally, she said Nelson harassed one of her neighbors. Tortorete stated that she and Nelson had dated from Dec. 31 until Jan. 23.
On Feb. 6, Nelson took out a warrant against Tortorete, claiming in mostly illegible handwriting that she was mad because of being “stood up” and was sending “text messages of wrongful accusations,” court records show.
Monday’s incident marked the third time in a little over a year that domestic issues on St. Simons Island escalated into a shooting.
Police determined that Yolanda Goodman acted in self defense early on the morning of Oct. 23 when she shot and killed Wesley Horton at their condominium in Building E of Ocean Walk, 850 Mallery St. Horton, 47, died at the scene. Police concluded that Goodman, 44, “was in reasonable fear for her own personal safety,” Doering said at the time.
On the night of Feb. 21 last year, police said April Callie Baker shot and wounded George Wilbur Mosley after the two got into a physical confrontation at Baker’s residence at 5513 Frederica Road. Police said the gun went off when the two struggled for possession of it; police determined Baker acted in self defense.