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Eugene, Oregon, is a scenic city of around 160,000 people situated in the Willamette Valley's southern end. The third largest city in the state, it is home to the University of Oregon where Christine Ann Nelson was working as a secretary in the Division of Counseling and Educational Psychology when she went missing in 1986.
Christine Nelson was reported missing August 25, 1986, by her husband Philip Nelson. Those who knew her described her as a social butterfly and natural athlete that enjoyed high-energy activities like wind-surfing and baseball. An attractive 36 year old with blonde hair and blue eyes, Nelson stood around 5’10” and weighed between 140 and 150 pounds at any given time.
Philip Nelson was an immediate suspect in the disappearance of his wife. Co-workers at the University of Oregon library, where she worked prior to becoming a secretary, reported that Christine had appeared several times at work with bruises. When asked about them she implied that Philip was the cause, however no domestic charges were ever filed by police. He and Christine had a turbulent relationship and Christine had left in January, 1986, moving into her parents’ home in nearby Springfield. After pleading with Christine extensively to reconcile Philip finally convinced her to make the attempt, and began spending weekends with him once again at their home.
Christine hadn’t yet decided whether or not to end her marriage when she left with her husband on August 22 to travel to Carson City, Nevada. She felt that the trip would be a good time to think over the decision, and the pair left to pick up two Studebakers that Philip had purchased for his collection. It was later confirmed that Christine was seen in good health in Carson City, but that was the last time anyone besides Philip saw her alive.
The Nelsons reportedly returned from their trip on August 23; Philip would contact police two days later to report her missing. According to him, Christine had donned her black leather motorcycle jacket and gold helmet the morning of Sunday, August 24, and left on her 1973 Honda 500 (more recent sources say Honda 550) motorcycle to go for a ride. She hadn’t returned and Philip was concerned about her whereabouts.
Christine Nelson’s motorcycle and helmet were eventually located outside the Portable Rock Productions quarry on Sears Road in Cottage Grove, about 15 miles from the home she and Philip. Its Oregon plates were still attached but there was no sign of Christine or clues to where she had went. When questioned by authorities Philip was cooperative, stating that he believed Christine had ran away with another man, using the quarry’s close location to the highway to back up his theory that she had been picked up and willingly disappeared.
While some of her family members supported Philip’s theory, her mother and investigators felt strongly that Christine had become a victim of foul play. They believed that Christine had made a decision that she wanted to end the marriage, and that Philip had killed her in a fit of rage upon hearing this. Since she was never seen alive after Carson City there was no proof that she had ever made it back to Oregon, and police suspected that Philip had staged the motorcycle scene as part of his cover story.
As authorities grew more suspicious Philip hired a lawyer and stopped cooperating, refusing to take a polygraph test. However without a body or any hard evidence against Philip the case went cold, and Philip Nelson was never charged in his wife’s disappearance.
Lane County Circuit Court
Several years passed without any progress on Christine Nelson’s case, and Philip eventually moved to Alaska. Then, in 1993, Christine’s mother, Eleanor Horn, filed suit against Philip in Lane County Circuit Court. Oregon law dictates that a murderer cannot benefit from their victim’s estate, and the lawsuit aimed to name Philip as his wife’s killer and bar him from gaining any of her life insurance and retirement proceeds.
The lawsuit was eventually dropped when Philip and Christine’s mother came to a settlement agreement. In the end Philip Nelson relinquished any rights he had to his wife’s estate but remained unnamed as Christine Nelson’s murderer. Christine Ann Nelson was declared legally dead nearly eight years after her disappearance. Floyd Horn, Christine’s father, could never accept that his daughter was dead, choosing to believe that she was alive and well somewhere after willingly choosing to disappear and start over amid marital problems.
Three separate psychics contacted by the family over the years concluded that Christine had been wearing a plaid shirt when she was struck over the head with a shovel and killed.
An interesting comment left by WebSleuths’ member May1954 claims that Christine (referred to as Darlene in her comment) was a co-worker at the University library and that she was indeed involved with another man, a boss named “George”. The user claims that mutual friend confided that George had indeed helped Christine “escape” and that he was unknown to the family. This WebSleuth user has not been active since 2012 and it is unknown if this information was reported to authorities by the user during the investigation.
Most of her immediate family has passed away, and if alive today Christine would be 69 years old. DNA comparisons have been made against eight sets of unidentified remains, however no positive matches were identified. It’s believed that she was wearing a plaid or striped shirt, grey pants, two-toned black Nike shoes. She was also known to wear wire-framed glasses. Christine had a mole and scar on her chin, as well as a dimple on her right cheek and scars on her right knee and eye area.
Those with additional public information or contacts related to this article please contact us. Persons with information on the disappearance of Christine Ann Nelson are urged to contact the Lane County Sheriff’s Office at (541) 682-4150, regarding case number 864050, or your local law enforcement agency.
State of California Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General - Missing Person: Christine Ann Nelson
Porchlight International For The Missing And Unidentified - Nelson, Christine
The DOE Network - Case # 1357DFOR - Christine Ann Nelson
The Charley Project - Christine Ann Nelson
NAMUS - Case # MP888
WebSleuths - Missing/Murdered along the I-5 Corridor
NBC 16 - 23 Aug 2016 - Cold Case Investigation Continues 30 Years After Christine Nelson Disappeared
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- 28 Aug 1986 - Lane County Search Finds Cycle, Not Rider