A Kelso man was sentenced Monday to 45 years for his involvement in a 2022 murder of a transient man, whose dead body was later blown up with explosives in a failed attempt to cover up the crime.
Jethro Nichols Welter, 54, of Kelso, who faced 16 counts — including first-degree murder, possession of an explosive device, unlawful disposal of human remains, tampering with evidence, and nine counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm — pleaded guilty and posted bail in May.
Court records show he was arrested again in June in Idaho, and told the state trooper he was "skipping bond" on a murder charge and planned to "lay low" out of state and live "off the grid."
For the murder charge alone, Welter was sentenced to serve the next four decades in prison with 36 months of community custody for his involvement in the death of Alan Brice Nielsen, 51, of Kelso.
He was sentenced to serve counts three through 13 — the unlawful possession of a firearm charges — consecutively, then concurrently for the murder, possession of an explosive device, stolen firearm, tampering with evidence, and unlawful disposal of human remains charges.
Before presiding Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Haan sentenced Welter, she said, "No matter what I do, nothing will bring back Alan Nielsen."
She called Welter's actions "egregious." She said he took "great lengths ... to cover up the crime."
From the small corner cell in the jail courtroom, Welter said he was "set up."
He said he contributes to Cowlitz County, and therefore shouldn't be locked away.
"I work here, I pay property taxes," he said. "I'm a productive member of society."
Nielsen's sister said in her court statement her brother's murder "devastated" her and caused her to have "bad dreams."
Welter's co-conspirators, Jerome Adrian Markert, 48, of an unknown location, and Carlos Chavez Velazco, 34, of Los Angeles, are both facing first-degree murder charges, possession of an explosive device, and unlawful disposal of human remains. Velazco is also facing one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Markert's next court date is Dec. 14, for a pre-trial management hearing, and Velazco, who fled to Los Angeles after the murder, was ordered by the court to provide a DNA sample, and is in custody in Clark County.
Authorities discovered, with the use of an informant, that Welter shot Nielsen on his Kelso property located on Holcomb Spur Road. The motive for this crime, according to the report, is that Markert believed Nielsen was responsible for the death of his dogs.
Authorities discovered, with the use of an informant, Welter shot Nielsen in summer 2022 on his Kelso property located on Holcomb Spur Road, the case's probable cause statement says. The motive for this crime, according to the report, is that Markert believed Nielsen was responsible for the death of his dogs.
The report says police suspected Welter fired guns at exploding targets located near Nielson's dead body inside a vehicle in order to dispose of his remains and hide the crime.
In late July 2022, police found a green Nissan pickup on the property, and suspected something exploded in its bed. Authorities found Nielsen's scatted remains around the truck, but the torso was never recovered, as mentioned in the probable cause statement.
After obtaining Welter's phone data records, investigators found his cell phone was at the Holcomb Road property from 4:20-7:57 p.m. on July 15, 2022.
At 4:37 p.m. that night, a neighbor placed a 911 call to report gunfire, yelling and cars crashing.
Welter messaged Markert via Facebook, stating, "We need exploding targets, call Gator Guns, the Lexington Hardware, Bob's (sic), and anyone else you can think of."
Further investigation revealed Welter visited Bob's Sporting Goods in Longview between July 17-19. During these visits, he purchased 60 pounds of Sonic Boom exploding targets.