Missing woman's death ruled a homicide, Winter Park police say

Former person of interest Scott Nelson named as suspect

Scott Nelson, left, has been arrested in connection with the disappearance and death of Jennifer Fulford, right.

WINTER PARK, Fla. – The death of a missing woman who was found dead on Saturday has been ruled a homicide, Winter Park Police Chief Michael Deal said during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Jennifer Lynn Fulford, 56, was reported missing on Wednesday after police said she "vanished under suspicious circumstances." Fulford, a nanny, was supposed to pick up her client's children from school that day but never did.

Her vehicle was found Thursday in the parking lot of a Publix on Colonial Drive in Orange County and her body was found the following day off Apopka-Vineland Road, according to police.

Authorities could not give exact details surrounding Fulford's death because the police investigation is ongoing.

“We have determined Jennifer is the victim of the homicide,” Deal said, offering few specifics.

Scott Nelson, 53, was named as a person of interest in the case on Thursday. Winter Park police released surveillance photos of him that night, asking for the public's help identifying the then-unknown man.

Police said Nelson took an Amtrak train to Jacksonville, where he was arrested at the Sunshine Inn on New Kings Road Sunday evening.

Sunshine Inn on New King's Road in Jacksonville where a suspect in an Altamonte Springs woman's death was captured Sunday, October 1, 2017.

Deal said authorities had received information that Nelson could be in the Jacksonville area and that he was recognized while checking into the hotel.

According to the motel owner, Nelson checked in and paid with cash for four nights. The motel owner said police showed workers Nelson’s picture Sunday around 2 p.m. then waited to arrest him.

"There is no label on anybody's head that they are criminals, so we rented the room," the hotel owner said. "He was staying very nicely. He never disrupted any customers or any guests or anybody at the office. He was talking nicely, never rude. He never seemed rude. But if he did the crime then he should be punished."

Nelson surrendered peacefully after a brief standoff, according to the arrest report.

“This is an outstanding example of law enforcement working together to solve a terrible crime and get a bad guy off the street," Deal said.

He's being held without bond on a charge of violation of federal probation. Nelson was found guilty in 2012 of robbing a bank in Volusia County in 2010, court records show.

As part of his federal probation, Nelson was ordered to participate in a mental health treatment program and a substance abuse treatment program.

He was taken from Jacksonville to the Winter Park area Monday to faces charges. 

Deal said Nelson is a suspect in Fulford's death and disappearance, but it's uncertain when or if he will face charges. Deal also said authorities are keeping their minds open to other possibilities as well.

Evidence has been collected from the Winter Park home where Fulford worked, her vehicle, the scene where her body was found and the hotel room where Nelson was arrested, Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge Danny Banks said Monday.

“Now is the time for us to be methodical in regards to this investigation,” Banks said.

Deal said he anticipates that more evidence will be collected once a search warrant is served in Jacksonville.

The relationship between Fulford and Nelson, if any, has not yet been released to the media.

Fulford was a wife, mother of two, grandmother and property manager. 

Nelson is a transient who was living at a shelter in Orlando prior to the crime.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Winter Park Police Department at 407-644-1313 or Crimeline at 407-423-TIPS.

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