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Morton man who burned himself ruled a suicide

6-30-2007 Illinois:

PEKIN - A Tazewell County Coroner's Jury ruled Thursday that the death of a man who doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze was a suicide.

Stuart C. Nelson, 47, of 379 E. Forestwood, Morton, went to the Travel Center on May 18 at 1801 N. Morton Ave., bought a gas can and $1.55 cents of gasoline, poured it over himself and lit himself on fire. He died at 1 a.m.

Witnesses said Nelson never uttered a sound the entire time - even when on fire.

Witnesses ran to his aid with fire extinguishers and put out the blaze.

Nelson was living at the Days Inn nearby. He had been forced to move from his parents' house because it was near a school and he was a sex offender.

He had just gotten out of jail.

But Nelson's father claims his son no longer was required to be registered as a sex offender.

Richard Nelson said his home actually is far enough from Grundy Grade School, but his son was not allowed to live there because he smokes.

Dealing with loss

“He was a great kid. It just tears you apart. You're not supposed to bury your children,” Richard Nelson said Thursday. “I want to remember him as my son, smiling and joking and having a good time.”

Nelson was a schizophrenic, said Morton Police Department Detective Sgt. Bill Roth.

“If he stayed on his meds - and that was his problem - and off alcohol he was a decent guy to talk to,” said Roth. “He was a whole different person when he was drinking.”

Witnesses reported Nelson had a “scary look” on his face. “He had a look in his eyes that people said he was wild, he was agitated,” Roth said during Thursday's inquest.

Roth said the inability to move back in with his parents may have been a contributing factor to his suicide.

An autopsy established the cause of death as inhalation of hot gases that caused spasms and edema to the larynx, said Tazewell County Coroner Dennis Conover.

A toxicology screen found no legal or illegal substances in his system. He was supposed to be on Thorazine, but there was none in his system, Conover said.

“With the closure of Zellers (Mental Health Center) I know there are more and more people on the streets who need help,” said Conover.

After starting the blaze, Nelson walked away from the pumps to the south side of the parking lot where he dropped to the ground.

Conover said that decision by Nelson saved lives. ..more.. by Sharon Woods Harris (Self-Immolation)

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