County officials set higher goal for petition drive to keep murderer behind bars

An effort by two elected county officials and a victim’s family to keep a man convicted of a 1985 murder in Bristol behind bars is resetting its goal for a petition drive.

The petition asking that convicted murderer Eric Nelson not be granted parole next month reached its original goal of 1,000 signatures April 2, the day after it was announced at a press conference that included
County Executive Jim Kreuser, District Attorney Michael Gravely and relatives of Joseph Vite, the murder victim. As of Thursday, it had received 2,400 signatures.

Kreuser, in a news release, said the new goal is 4,200 signatures by May 10. Nelson’s case is expected to be considered by the state parole board in May.

Said Kreuser:

“I feel strongly about this issue, as do District Attorney Graveley and the Vite family. And I think it’s very important that we send a clear message to the Parole Commission, that Eric Nelson is a dangerous individual who doesn’t belong out of prison. “I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to study the issue and sign the petition, and I hope more join this fight in the coming weeks.”

Nelson used a .308-caliber hunting rifle to shoot Joseph Vite in the head during an attack in Vite’s Bristol home on Jan. 16, 1985. Nelson committed the crime alongside friend Daniel Dower, Vite’s foster child, who had planned the murder for months. Both Nelson and Vite were 16 years old at the time. After fleeing the scene in Vite’s car with a cache of loaded rifles, they were arrested in Bridgeton, Missouri, then returned to Kenosha County where they were tried as adults. Both were convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and were sentenced to life in prison, but were eligible for parole in 1999 under state law in effect at the time.

The online petition is available here.

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