Man accused of killing wife and neighbors, setting homes on fire

Man accused of killing wife and neighbors, setting homes on fire
Edward Nelson is seen in a booking photo from the Coos County Sheriff's Office.

COOS BAY, Ore. – Police arrested a 65-year-old Coos County man who is accused of killing his wife and neighbors before setting fire to his both his house and theirs on Saturday night.

Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier said police arrived at Edward Lawrence Nelson's home on Big Creek Road at around 8:45 p.m. after someone called 911 reporting it was on fire. Officers found the body of Kathleen Nelson, 59, who apparently died of “homicidal violence.”

The fire did not cause extensive damage to the home, but Frasier said it was suspicious and believed to be intentionally set.

While officers were at the scene, they noticed that a neighboring house and outbuilding were also on fire. Firefighters quickly put out the fire at the outbuilding, but the home was destroyed. Investigators believe those fires were also intentionally set.

“Unfortunately, the two occupants of that residence are believed to have been inside of the home,” Frasier said in a news release. “Investigators at the scene have located what are believed to be human remains of at least one occupant.”

Frasier said the bodies were believed to be Renae Cottam, 73, and his wife, Lola Cottam, 73.

"At this time investigators believe all three victims had been killed prior to the fires being set," said Frasier.

Police identified Nelson as a suspect after they received information from witnesses, Frasier said. State police stopped Nelson’s vehicle in Douglas County and took him into custody at around 10:15 p.m.

Nelson faces three counts each of aggravated murder and arson (1st degree). Police took him to the Coos County Jail.

Autopsies of the victims are scheduled for Tuesday.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Coos County Sheriff’s Office.