“A Long, Dark Night” featured in Secret Rockford

Nelson_FamilyIn 1978, the Simon Peter Nelson murders shocked Rockford, Illinois, then a thriving city of around 140,000 people. In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 7, while his wife was in a room with another man at the Downtown Ramada Inn in Milwaukee, Nelson brutally murdered his six sleeping children in their home on Camp Avenue. This crime is still whispered about today, but until now, no one has ever written a detailed account of the events on that fateful night and the days leading up to it.

I chronicle these tragic events, which took place between January 3 and Nelson’s arrest on January 7, 1978, in “A Long, Dark Night.” I wrote this article exclusively for Secret Rockford, an anthology of articles and short stories written by Rockfordians from all walks of life. “A Long, Dark Night” ended up being a touch over 11,100 words, with 82 footnotes.

While I was writing this, I couldn’t help but be struck by the senselessness of the crime. There are plenty of couples who have been cheated on and get divorced. Some of those divorces are pretty nasty, with one party or another losing everything. What would  compel a man, in this circumstance, to murder his own children? What kind of a person would do such a thing, and why did it happen here in Rockford?

Maybe the answers to those questions will never be fully understood, but I did my best to write down every last detail I could find regarding this horrible crime. Maybe it will help us understand how something like this could happen.

It is available on and for Nook and Kindle e-readers.

5 replies on ““A Long, Dark Night” featured in Secret Rockford”

I knew Ann. She was one of the most positive influences in my life as a 12-14 year old, and went above and beyond to keep me safe after I’d fallen at the rink during a show rehearsal, and got a nasty head injury. The stories about her not being a ‘present’ mom just don’t jive with the person I knew. She’d likely have been at the rink very early in the morning, so seems like he should have been the one to make sure the little ones were set for the babysitter. I think about Ann often, and pray that she has been able to find some sort of “new normal” over the years. I also blog about this case- and did read the chapter in ‘Secret Rockford’. The deposition sources are very interesting. I cried when I found out Simon Peter Nelson had died a couple of weeks ago… it was a sort of release- though I’ll never stop wondering about Ann. My thoughts and prayers have been with her for decades.


I was a young boy when this gruesome crime took place…I remember very well as this happened just three blocks away and I knew the younger boys. My sister was best friends with the oldest girls and she was devastated…I still think about this every once in while as I drive by the house…I still live in the neighborhood.



My brother and I were born in Rockford Illinois. We lived in Rockford when this happened. I was 10 and my brother was 9. It was shocking, it affected the whole community.


I was 11 when this happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. We’re long gone, in Florida now but my mom was very close to his wife and to this day, my mom cries when she talks about it. I just found out about your book but will order it for sure. Thanks


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