This post examines the psychosocial history of offender Daniel Nations, 31. This article features speculation from various corners of the internet and is intended to be a summary of that speculation. It is not intended to represent factual analysis or an actual accusation of guilt for any untried crimes. At the time this blog post was written, Nations had not been charged with any crimes related to the Delphi murders or the murder of Tim Watkins in Colorado and has not been listed as a suspect in either case.
Daniel Nations, originally of Chesnee, South Carolina, was raised from the age of 6 by his grandmother, Frona Hamm, 87, who states that she is his only remaining family. Hamm has not spoken to Nations since she asked him and his wife to move off her property five years ago.
Nations’ father is in jail and his mother was murdered in 2002 by her half-brother, James Junior Cummings. Nations was 17 at the time of his mother’s murder. Cummings, 47 at the time of the murder, stabbed and beat Nations’ mother, Rebecca Smith, 44, to death on November 23, 2002. He then dragged her body to the woods behind her home and buried her under a pile of leaves and brush, about 80 feet from the house.
Smith was placed face-down in a drainage ditch, wearing only a pair of underwear and a green cast on one arm (she had broken her arm during a fight with her boyfriend two weeks prior). An autopsy found that Smith had cocaine in her system and had suffered two fatal stab wounds, numerous other wounds consistent with a hammer, a broken nose, and a broken jaw. A butcher knife was found in the kitchen sink and a hammer was on the kitchen table; blood was found in the driveway, on the porch, and in the kitchen. Cummings claimed self-defense but was ultimately found guilty of second degree murder and felony larceny.
From The North Carolina Court of Appeals:
“Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Grayson Edwards testified that he was called to Ms. Smith’s residence and arrived at about 2:20 p.m. on November 23, 2002. When he arrived he spoke with Mr. Warren and with Ms. Smith’s son, Daniel Nation. (Johnson Tpp. 65-67). Sgt. Edwards testified that he observed a sizeable spot of blood in the driveway and then went into the trailer to see if Ms. Smith was present and in need of assistance. In the kitchen, there was obviously blood spattered in and around the sink and on the cabinets. After determining that no one was in the residence, they went back outside. Sgt. Edwards observed some drag marks, accompanied by droplets of blood from the driveway, and followed them behind the house and into the woods, where they stopped. They then observed another trail of blood coming out of the woods and leading to the back of the house. At this point, Sgt. Edwards called for detectives to come to the scene. Sgt. Edwards was still on the property, but was not actually present when Ms. Smith’s body was found. (Johnson Tpp. 68-70, 72-75).”
The intervening five years are a mystery. I could find little public information about what Nations was up to from 2002-2007 when he would have been roughly 17-22 years old. What we do know is that Nations had a history of rage and violent outbursts. His former employer and her husband stated that they became terrified of Nations’ violent outbursts. During the spring of 2015, Nations drove their vehicle to a neighboring town where he was then observed masturbating in the women’s restroom and peeping on women in adjacent stalls. The couple called police on Nations several times, including when he chased the woman’s husband while wielding a hatchet. Another of his prior landlords stated: “He’s a damn nut, I’ll tell you that. He’s the weirdest person I’ve met in my life.” This landlord went on to describe times Nations chopped down trees or destroyed a chair during a fit of rage.
Nations was convicted of indecent exposure in 2007 in Beaufort, South Carolina when he “exposed himself and masturbated in front of a 24-year old woman” at a Walmart Parking lot in Spartanburg County. This conviction landed Nations on the national sex offender registry. Over the years, he has also been convicted of domestic assault, sex crimes, driving with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia, operating without a license, invasion of privacy, possession of marijuana, weapons violations, failure to pay child support, and missed court appearances as well as failing to register as a sex offender. Nations has lived in Florida, Indiana, Colorado, and possibly New Jersey.
At the time of his 2007 arrest Nations was stationed as a Marine at Parris Island. Later, he was arrested four times for indecent exposure while stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina and incurred a fifth charge, also for indecent exposure, in South Carolina.
Nations’ most recent employer, in Martinsville, Indiana, stated that he ruined part of their home’s electrical system and destroyed some of their property with a hatchet before they had him removed via court order. The employer also noted that Nations had been employed in Zionsville at a construction company (about an hour from Delphi) during the time two girls were murdered in Delphi and that Nations “loved being in the woods.”
From Indiana to Colorado
We know Nations was rapidly decompensating in the months after the Delphi murders (and just prior to the murder and hatchet incidents in Colorado). His estranged wife, Katelyn, describes how Nations yanked the family out of a Greenwood, Indiana motel in May, 2017 when he got word that his only brother, Edward Lyles, had been brutally murdered. Lyles died after being kicked in the head with a steel-toed boot some five months prior. Katelyn recalls that Nations “snapped.” While he had been regularly checking in with local authorities regarding his sex offender status, Nations fell of the map and stopped checking in. He loaded Katelyn and their two kids into the car and started driving west toward Colorado in the hopes of getting some answers about his brother’s death. Nations was unaware at the time that Lyle’s attacker had already pled guilty and had begun serving a 16-year sentence.
Nations and his family had a rocky adjustment to Colorado when they arrived there in June, 2017: he struggled to find work and a stable place to live due to his sex offender status; their camping setup and car were frequently broken into and they were stolen from.
“He kept taking everything personally,” Katelyn said. “He had less patience with anybody that was rude to him. We had a small car, people could look in and you could tell we were traveling. He’d yell at people he thought were looking down on him. It’s like he lost all reasoning when we came here,” she said.
Nations was always abusive and controlling in their relationship, claims Katelyn. But, this behavior worsened once they arrived in Colorado. He seized her phone, car keys, monitored Facebook, isolated her from family and friends, controlled the family’s money, and made sure Katelyn was nearby him at all times.
Nations was then the subject of a harassment complaint in the Mount Herman Road area — as was Katelyn — in late August, 2017. Two weeks later, he tried to strangle Katelyn for the first time in their 6-year marriage (domestic violence experts agree that an escalation in physical violence to the level of strangulation is a reliable predictor of future lethality indicating that, yes, Nations was escalating and, potentially, becoming lethal, not just aggressive).
Shortly after this incident, Nations was arrested on a weapons violation charge after a group of bicyclists called police to report being threatened by a man with a hatchet. Nations — and his vehicle — fit their description of the suspect. Right smack in the middle of the Colorado timeline — in between the strangulation of Katelyn and the ‘hatchet man’ incident — a cyclist was found murdered in the same area in which the other two cycling incidents occurred. Coincidence?
A Series of Unsolved Crimes
- On February 13, 2017, two young girls out for a walk in the woods were intercepted on the Monon High Bridge Trail in Delphi, Indiana by a man, known only as “Bridge Guy,” or “BG.” One of the girls had the wherewithal to surreptitiously record the man stalking them with her smartphone and captured not only visual images of him, but also his voice. The two girls were later murdered by this man and their bodies were found the following day. More info on the case HERE.
Nearly as soon as the composite sketch of BG was released, some 2 months after the murders, Daniel Nations became a person of interest and law enforcement set out to his new home state of Colorado to interview him and Katelyn. At the time of the murders, Nations was a registered sex offender living about an hour from where the murders took place. He bore an eerily close resemblance to BG.
2) Nations was arrested in Woodland Park, Colorado on September 25, 2017 on a weapons violation charge — possession of a hatchet and .22 caliber gun. He had initially been pulled over for expired Indiana plates. The officer noted that Nations’ red Chevrolet Prizm closely resembled the description of the vehicle “Hatchet Man” was driving when he terrorized a group of bicyclists in the Mount Herman trail area. At the time the car was pulled over, Katelyn and the two children were also in the vehicle. Nations denied threatening any cyclists with a hatchet, although he did admit he had a hatchet in the car. Nations stated that he ‘may have’ shaken his fist out the car window at some cyclists who tried to run the car off the road but denied that the incident escalated any further.
Nations’ wife, Katelyn, admits that they had a run-in with some cyclists a few weeks earlier, in the exact same area of Mount Herman trail. Katelyn claims the family was driving down Mount Herman Road in August or September when “a passing truck took a corner too fast and edged into their lane. Daniel whipped the car to the right to avoid crashing, but the maneuver brought the vehicle dangerously close to tumbling off the side, Katelyn said.”
“‘That set him off,’ Katelyn said. ‘He jumped out and took off screaming after them, but I was so scared about what happened I never looked back. If he had a hatchet, I never saw it.’ Daniel’s explosion lasted only about five minutes, Katelyn said. The truck never stopped. That was Daniel’s only aggressive interaction on Mount Herman Road that Katelyn said she witnessed or was aware of, though police said in his arrest records that a man and woman resembling Daniel and Katelyn Nations were involved in menacing complaints in the area on Aug. 23 and 24.” (source: Journal & Courier)
3) Tim Watkins, 60, a beloved Colorado cyclist, was murdered in the same area of Mt. Herman Road that “Hatchet Man” had been terrorizing cyclists on a wooded trail. Watkins was shot several times with a .22 caliber gun and crudely buried under a pile of twigs and brush. Prior to finding his body, searchers located his bike and a lone shoe. Watkins had last been seen on September 14, 2017 when he left around 10am for his daily bike ride; his body was found three days later on September 17, 2017. Nations was charged on September 28, 2017 by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office with felony menacing and reckless endangerment for the alleged threats he made with the hatchet against the cyclists on September 25, 2017.
Connecting The Dots
- Nations was in Indiana at the time of the Delphi murders, as evidenced by his required check-in on February 14, 2017 at the Morgan County Jail, located approximately 90-minutes from Delphi. At the time of the murders, Nations was living in Martinsville in a farmhouse his employer owned, approximately 100 miles south of Delphi.
- Katelyn, Nations’ wife, posted on Facebook on February 13, 2017 indicating that Nations may not have been home with her that evening. Katelyn is Nations’ alibi witness so where was he? She also posted earlier in the day, at 2:42pm, about her trip to an obstetrician appointment. The Delphi girls would have already been kidnapped at this point and possibly in the process of being violated or murdered.
- Katelyn also claims that Nations would not have had access to their vehicle in order to commit the crimes, that he never left her and the children for more than 15 minutes at a time and the drive from where they lived Greenwood to Delphi was over an hour. Katelyn also feels sure that Nations never owned a blue windbreaker like the jacket seen in the BG photos and that the hat depicted does not match any of Nations’ hats as he always wore baseball caps (note: law enforcement has stated they are unclear on what kind of hat BG was wearing).
- Katelyn feels fairly sure Nations was with her at her OB appointment on February 13th. Then again, she doesn’t have a specific memory of it and admits that he did miss several of the OB appointments. She also acknowledges that it would be conceivable that Nations could murder someone: “Possibly. In a fit of rage, yes.”
- A witness who was in the Monon High Bridge area just prior to the disappearance of the Delphi girls stated: “I only (saw) a guy when I first got there and another couple once I got on the bridge.” Could the couple have been Katelyn and her husband? We know Katelyn was with Nations when he allegedly terrorized the cyclists with a hatchet. So, she’s been either an accomplice or a witness in prior violent incidents.
- A witness stated that BG’s eyes were “not blue.” Nations has brown eyes.
- There are rumors that the Delphi girls were stabbed with a sharp object and, possibly, nearly decapitated. Could it be that the hatchet is what ties all three cases together? What else could possibly link the two Colorado cases with what happened in Delphi? The demographics (ages, gender, number of victims, etc) and MO (shooting vs stabbing, etc) are all different so perhaps evidence of an unusual weapon such as a hatchet was found at all three crime scenes. After all, it does not appear DNA was left behind at any of the crime scenes.
- Lots of things have centered around the number 13 as well as the time 2pm: the Delphi girls went missing around 2:30pm on February 13th. The Evansdale girls went missing around 2pm on July 13th. Tim Watkins went missing on September 14th. Nations’ mother was brutally murdered on November 23rd. Police were summoned by her boyfriend and a then-17-year old Nations at 2:20pm to the bloody crime scene. Nations and Katelyn left Indiana for Colorado on May 12th.
- Lots of things happen around the 23rd-25th: the ‘hatchet man’ incidents occurred on August 23rd and 24th as well as September 25th. Nations’ mother was murdered on November 23rd.
- Lots of people have been dragged on the ground and buried under sticks and brush: Nations’ mother, the Delphi girls (allegedly), the Evansdale girls (allegedly), and Tim Watkins.
- The bikes: Tim Watkins was abducted and/or shot while riding a bike, the cyclists were terrorized while riding, and the Evansdale girls were abducted while riding bikes.
- ALL of the crimes involved the woods and/or a wooded trail.
- A sheriff went to Nations’ home the day after the sketch was released in July. This was 2 months after Nations moved to Colorado. Why then? What prompted investigators to jump on a plane to Colorado to meet with Nations two months after the murders? Did they realize the sketch of Bridge Guy looked eerily like Nations?
- There is a rumor that the letter “K” was carved into one of the Delphi girls. Could this have been for ‘Katelyn,’ Nations’ wife at the time of the murders?
- Authorities have made it clear time and again that someone else is aware of what happened in the Delphi case. Are they speaking to Katelyn? They’ve also never said the killer acted alone. Are they aware of a getaway driver or accomplice?
- Nations was often homeless and known to sleep under bridges. The Delphi girls were abducted from a bridge. Coincidence? Or, a familiar place?
- BG was likely left-handed (he carried his gun holder or similar weapon on his left side). Nations also appears to be left-handed (keeps his wallet in his left rear pocket, holds his phone with his left hand). Note: only 10% of the population is left-handed. That really narrows down the suspect list, if true.
- We know Nations has reddish-brown hair and brown eyes and that he also fits the suggested build for BG. While brown eyes are the most common eye color for redheads, it is also true that redheads only comprise 1-2% of the U.S. population. Combine that with the possibility that BG is left-handed and you’re looking at a pretty small number of people who fit the bill. BG has been described as NOT having blue eyes and possibly having reddish-brown hair.
- Authorities in Colorado have stated that there are “many similarities” between their case (Watkins’ murder and/or the hatchet incidents; it is unclear which case/s they are specifically referring to) and the Delphi murders. The similarities were so pronounced, in fact, that they contacted Delphi investigators who subsequently flew Indiana State detectives to Colorado to question Nations. What could be similar? It’s not the victims. I’m guessing the hatchet, the wooded trail, and the bikes.
Of note, I theorized in a related blog post that the Delphi murderer may be linked to the Evansdale killer and that whoever this man is “may have endured a trauma around age 13” and that “the 13th of the month, the number 13, or just generally ‘the teens,’ might hold special significance for him” as well as the time 2pm. Nations would have been around age 17 when his mother was murdered. He called police to the very bloody crime scene around 2pm. She was later found crudely buried in a wooded area under some sticks and leaves. So were the Delphi girls, the Evansdale girls, and Tim Watkins. May they all rest in peace and may their killer be found and brought to justice.
At this time, Nations is not consider a suspect in the Delphi or Evansdale murders and authorities have expressed little interest in pursuing him further. Nations is currently on active probation for 702 days from the time of his sentencing in May 2018 for failing to register as a sex offender, driving on a suspended license, and possession of marijuana. He has expressed that he has plans to return to Colorado. It is presumed Nations has been excluded from the Delphi suspect list due to DNA on file which does not match DNA found at the crime scene.
In July of 2018, authorities announced that the case into finding Watkins’ killer had gone cold. During a hearing into whether or not Watkins’ autopsy findings should be publicly disclosed, it was revealed that authorities had reached all dead ends and would likely not be able to identify his killer unless new tips were called in. Although persons of interest have been identified in the case, no one has risen to the level of suspect. It was determined that the autopsy findings would not be published publicly as to do so might jeopardize any potential future prosecution. For now, sensitive information about the type of bullet(s) used, distance from which Watkins was shot, the number of wounds, and trajectory of the bullet(s) are being kept from the public domain in the hopes that this information can be later used if a suspect is ever identified.
Related Post: The Delphi & Evansdale Murders