BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man caught spying on his wife with binoculars - while a 12-gauge shotgun, a length of rope, an ax and an unopened box of latex gloves sat in his truck nearby - must serve 15 days of community service for stalking.
Police on a coffee break saw Nathan Joahan Nelson, 39, hiding in bushes near the southwest corner of the Ferndale Haggen, looking west through some trees, according to prosecutors. As a detective approached, Nelson put down a pair of binoculars and briskly walked toward his red Nissan pickup.
The detective caught up to him and asked what he'd been doing. Nelson explained he had been watching for his wife's car, to make sure she'd really gone to a gym on Main Street to work out. He suspected her of cheating on him.
The detective kept questioning him and, eventually, Nelson confessed that he had a shotgun in his truck, according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. He'd brought it, he said, "in case there was a confrontation," according to the charges.
Police searched the truck. The black shotgun had a pistol grip and no stock. Beside it, officers found a pair of black latex gloves. They also discovered two boxes of hollow-point shotgun slugs, an ax, handwritten notes documenting his wife's movements and conversations, a Maglite flashlight, white rope, a sheathed knife, an unopened box of more latex gloves and two plastic Ziploc bags full of condoms.
Nelson admitted to placing a digital recorder in his wife's car to listen in on her conversations.
On the day of the crime, the victim told police she felt afraid of her husband, according to Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey. Later, however, Nelson's wife backed off that claim, making it difficult for the prosecution to prove he had violated a crucial provision of Washington state's stalking law - that the stalker "placed (the victim) in fear."
Nelson, a U.S. Merchant Marine with no felony history in Washington, pleaded guilty Thursday, July 25, to domestic violence stalking, a gross misdemeanor. Charges of attempted second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and stalking while armed with a deadly weapon were dropped in a plea bargain.
Nelson also agreed to undergo domestic violence treatment. It's expected to take about a year for him to finish the program, said Thomas Fryer, his lawyer.