Two Charged in Link to Mystery Death; Police Suspect Pair Sexually Assaulted Woman

Article excerpt

Byline: NIN-HAI TSENG, The Times-Union

Clay County authorities still do not know what caused the death of 31-year-old Mary Nelson nearly a year ago.

But Thursday they charged the woman's stepsister and the stepsister's former husband with sexually assaulting her about the time of her death.

On April 19, a passing motorist found Nelson's body along Arora Boulevard, a few yards from her Orange Park home.

"She was fully clothed, her body was found on a bed of grass next to a mailbox," said sheriff's spokeswoman Mary Justino Friday, recalling the scene.

The death of Nelson, who authorities said was mildly retarded, was baffling to many. Authorities today still don't know the cause.

But there were always signs of suspicion, Justino said. The autopsy report concluded Nelson had a blood-alcohol level of .38. The state's legal limit is .08.

Though authorities first reported no signs of trauma to Nelson's body, Justino said the autopsy revealed the woman was sexually assaulted.

Justino said the big break was Robert T. Harvey, 47, coming forward with information. Investigators then brought in his former wife, Linda K. Harvey, 41, for questioning. Nelson was the adopted stepsister of Linda Harvey.

The Harveys are currently in the Clay County Jail without bail on charges of sexual battery of a helpless and mentally defective person. If convicted of the felony charges, the two could face life in prison.

The sheriff's report says that on April 15, 2003, Nelson was sexually assaulted after being encouraged to drink "an excessive amount" of alcohol at Robert Harvey's mobile home west of Putnam County. …