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72-year-old man beaten in home invasion remains in critical condition

Donald Nelson was attacked at his home on Thompson Avenue in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood Friday evening, police said. He remained in critical condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center on Tuesday. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

For 20 years, Donald Nelson has lived in a tiny red log cabin on Thompson Avenue, in Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood. Neighbors knew him for his cats, his bike riding and his garden. 

But on Friday night, police say four men showed up at the cabin and started kicking the front door of the house, throwing rocks at the windows. They forced themselves inside. Nelson, who was on the phone with police, was beaten in the head and left with a skull fracture, according to the police.  

Four days later, the 72-year-old is still listed in critical condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

On Tuesday, windows were boarded up at Nelson's small home and the front door looked battered. Robbery appeared to be the motive, said police spokesperson Renee Oistad. Police have not said what was taken from the 425-square-foot cabin.

In the hour before Nelson was attacked, two other people in Mountain View were violently robbed by a group of four men, according to the Anchorage Police Department. One reported being hit in the head with a bottle.

Witnesses reported four men throwing rocks at Nelson's windows and trying to kick in the front door, police said. The homeowner was on the phone with APD when the intruders got inside, police said.

The attackers were described as "four Samoan males, one very heavy set, three of average build, one with wavy blonde hair," police said.

Police declined to answer additional questions about Nelson's beating, except to say no arrests had been made in the cases as of Tuesday night.

Nelson does not appear to have immediate family members living in the Anchorage area.

His ex-wife, Dodie Nelson, said he'd moved to Alaska from Oregon in the 1990s to work as a mechanic for now-defunct regional airline MarkAir.

He later became an audio engineer at KSKA, the local public radio station, where he worked from 1995 to 2005, according to station administrator Patsy Parker. The station utilized his deep "basso profondo" voice for on-air announcements.

"He has a beautiful voice," Parker said.

After Nelson stopped working at the station, he started his own business servicing small radio stations as an audio technician, according to the state business licensing database.

He would "offer coffee and have time to sit down with anyone who would drop by," said Ron Polk, a friend who said he'd known Nelson since the 1990s.

Nelson lived "frugally along with his cat Maurice." Audio testing equipment filled much of his house.

Dodie Nelson said she'd lost touch with him after they divorced in the 1990s but described him as a mild-mannered and kind engineer, mechanic and guitar player. She said she hopes the suspects are found.

"They don't have the right to do that," she said. "I'm really sorry."

 

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