BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The trial for a Burlington man accused of first-degree murder is tentatively set to begin almost one year to the day after a body was found in Indian Path Park on the Lee County side of Skunk River.
Joseph Mayorga, Jr., 35, Burlington, is accused of murdering James Merlin Nelson of Fairfield on or about Feb. 11, 2017 and will stand trial on Feb. 13, 2018 at the North Lee County Courthouse in Fort Madison.
Mayorga is being represented by public defender Allen Cook III, of Ottumwa. Bruce McDonald, an assistant with the Lee County Attorney’s office, will be prosecuting the case for the state.
A pretrial conference has been set for Jan. 19 and Iowa District 8 Judge Mark Kruse will preside at the trial. Kruse had set an arraignment for Friday, but a written arraignment and plea of not guilty were filed by Cook on Mayorga’s behalf on Oct. 10.
Nelson’s body was discovered at the park at about 11 a.m. on Feb. 11 by visitors of the park. According to family members, Nelson was working construction at the Iowa Fertilizer Company prior to his death, but they weren’t sure what his job status was when he was killed.
On Feb. 11th, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of a possible deceased person at a Lee County roadside park near Wever, Iowa.
Upon arrival, a male subject, later identified as 47-year-old Nelson, was found deceased. An autopsy performed on Nelson determined that he was killed by a single gunshot to the head. According to Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Rick Rahn, since the body was discovered in Lee County, the court case would be handled there, however Mayorga has the option to ask for a change of venue.
Mayorga had been incarcerated in Muscatine county on a federal gun charge but was transported to Lee County on Sept 28 and charges were filed Friday with the Lee County Attorney’s office.