“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.

If you live in the Rockford area, click here for a list of retailers where you can buy Secret Rockford. It is also available on Amazon.com and for Nook and Kindle e-readers.


About Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and freelance columnist. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He lives in Rockford, Illinois, where he was the 2013 Republican candidate for mayor.

Posted on February 6, 2014, in Articles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. 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.


  2. 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.

  3. scott lundquist

    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

  4. jayson dynowski

    Hey Micahel…hope all is well..I have a friend looking to publish a book..is there a way to contact you… Jayson0308@gmail.com

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