(Gillette, Wyo.) Joseph Nielsen appeared in Campbell County Circuit Court Friday afternoon, formally charged with first degree murder. Due to the nature of the charge, a felony, he could not enter a plea at that time in Circuit Court. Instead he's been scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week.
According to court documents, when Gillette Police originally responded to Nielsen's residence on August 6th, not only was his girlfriend's three year old son experiencing what appeared to be a seizure, the boy was allegedly covered in bruises both new and old on his arms, chest, stomach, and face.
During the police investigation in to the child's injury that Saturday, Nielsen stated to officers that the toddler had been standing on the coffee table in the living room and he jumped off of it, hitting his chest and then flipping over a 30" dollhouse, and landing on his back with the dollhouse on top of him.
After the fall he says he told the boy "that's why you don't jump on furniture." When the child was unresponsive, Nielsen contacted the boy's mother, who advised him to call 911. He stated to police that he waited approximately five minutes with the boy in his arms before he contacted emergency dispatch. The child's mother had been at the grocery store when this occurred.
Doctors at Children's Hospital in Denver describe the three year old's brain injury as similar to someone who had been in a car crash. It resembled an impact from a very sudden stop, something not typically seen in a fall from a coffee table's height. They also reported that the child had multiple rib fractures "in various stages of healing," as well as bruising and other fractures that are older than the reported fall on August 6th.
Due to the serious nature of this crime and the fact that Mr. Nielsen is already a convicted felon in the process of having his probation revoked, the state asked for a $2 million cash-only bond. Judge Terrill Tharp set Nielsen's bond at $750,000, stating the reasons for his decision as: this case having the potential to be a capital one, and at the very least with the potential for life in prison. He also noted that the paperwork on the bond revocation had not been signed yet, and once it is, bail will be denied for Mr. Nielsen anyhow.
The maximum penalty if convicted for first degree murder in the state of Wyoming is the death sentence. It is also punishable with life in prison without parole.