New details emerge as police close the case on murder-suicide of 8

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 05/22/2023, 3:48 PM
Edited: 05/24/2023, 2:10 AM

WARNING: The following article contains information relating to abuse, violence, homicide, and suicide. Please read with care.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include new information from Broken Arrow Police Department.

(BROKEN ARROW, Okla.) Though the home where two adults and six children were shot to death last October has since been torn down, many questions still remain. Following the release of the full autopsy reports of the parents of the deceased children, Brian and Brittney Nelson, Broken Arrow Police said the exact details of what transpired inside the house that afternoon will never be known. 

On Tuesday, BAPD PIO Ethan Hutchins shared what insight they could into what happened.

“The investigation offered a glimpse inside the house and suspects, yet the exact reason why this occurred is unknown,” Hutchins said. “There were indications of both mental health issues and domestic violence within the household.” 

The initial medical examiner's report on April 26 listed both the husband and wife's causes of death as "unknown", indicating that neither homicide nor suicide could be determined. 

Hutchins said Brian and Brittney Nelson killed their children and then started a fire. The couple then committed suicide, each killed the other, or one killed the other then killed themselves.

The cause of all eight deaths was determined to be intentional gunshot wounds.

Full autopsy reports of the children’s parents were released on May 5, painting a clear picture of violence within the home. 

Brittney Nelson's report indicates she was shot in the right side of the head and that she had more than a dozen blunt force injuries to her body. These injuries included wounds to her forehead, nose, both cheeks, and her chin. Additional injuries included wounds to her stomach, arms, fingers, and hands as well as bruising to her arm and a sharp force incision to her ankle. She was discovered with three orange earplugs in her pocket and an earplug in her ear. 

Brian Nelson's report indicates he was shot in the forehead. He was wearing a black and white face mask and had earplugs in both ears at the time of his death. A lock of hair in a pink elastic band was listed in his personal effects. He was described as having three blunt force injuries, two wounds to his back and a wound on his arm. 

Related Story: Murder probe continues as Broken Arrow tries to mend

The reports state two firearms were discovered near the couple's bodies. 

Hutchins said the investigation concluded both Brittney and Brian took part in the killing of their children and the investigation is now complete. 

He also said the Medical Examiner’s Reports corroborates what detectives and crime scene investigators observed at the scene and the results of the reports were expected.

“The Broken Arrow Police Department reminds citizens that there are resources available for both mental health and domestic violence,” Hutchins said. “Citizens can contact the police department, DVIS (Domestic Violence Intervention Services) or COPES (Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services) if help is needed.”

DVIS can be reached at (918) 743-5763. COPES can be reached at (918) 744-4800.

Prized as a peaceful Tulsa suburb, Broken Arrow has been rocked by at least two additional murder suicides this year and multiple murders not involving suicides. 

Domestic violence is a persistent statewide issue, only recently reclassified as a violent crime in 2020. Despite increased efforts to protect Oklahoma women, the state continues to lead the nation per capita of women killed by men.

During an interim study on criminalized survivorship last fall, law professor Leigh Goodmark said justice systems don’t often ask female criminal defendants if they are victims themselves. Her research has found between 70 and 80 percent of women who commit crimes do so with their partner- and 100 percent of those women said they had been abused by them. 

Topics such as abuse, violence, homicide, and suicide may be triggering to some. We encourage you to take the necessary steps for your emotional safety. This may include seeking comfort from a friend or family member, calling the Crisis Line at 988, or texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741.


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