HOUSTON - Angela Davis says the last time she saw her son, he was happy. It was Christmas Eve, 2010.
Davis cried softly on the witness stand Wednesday as a prosecutor showed her the Christmas present she gave the boy the morning before he disappeared; a Scooby-Doo container filled with candy.
Four days later, 12-year-old Jonathan Foster's body was found in a ditch in the 1500 block of Childress Street. His hands were tied behind him. His body was so badly burned pathologists couldn't determine the cause of his death.
Mona Nelson, 46, is charged with capital murder in the boy's death. In opening arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said they can show how Nelson killed the boy, but still can't explain why.
Assistant Harris County D.A. Connie Spence told the court, "Jonathan Foster disappeared from that home at 2:16 p.m. per the phone records, and by 6:08 p.m. Jonathan foster was being dumped in a ditch, by this defendant."
Spence said a surveillance camera at a nearby business recorded Nelson driving up and disposing of the boy's body. The sweat shirt he was wearing was found in a trash can at Nelson's house, at with Nelson's blood on it.
But defense attorney Allen Tanner said Nelson had no motive to kill the boy.
"Mona Nelson had zero motive to kill Jonathan Foster," Tanner said."They searched and searched and searched for a motive. There's no reason she would have killed that boy."
Tanner insisted that the boy's step father, David Davis, did have a motive. Tanner said Davis was angry when his wife brought the boy to live with them. Under cross examination by Tanner, Angela Davis said she left her former husband December 14, 2010 after he hit the boy. Ten days later, the Foster went missing.
"He told people at work Jonathan was the root of all his problems," Tanner said.
But prosecutors say phone records and witnesses statements prove David Davis was not involved in the murder.
Angela Davis testified someone called the meat market where she was working December 24, 2010 and told a manager that there was an emergency involving her son. Davis said as she headed home, she called her son, and a strange woman answered the phone.
"She said I'm Angela, I'm Jonathan's mother, and in the back ground she could hear her son Jonathan saying , 'Yes ma'am, my mother is named Angela.' and then the phone cuts off, " Spence said.
By the time Davis got to the apartment she shared with her son and a friend, the boy was gone.
Davis said she called police, but she said they assumed her son was a runaway and seemed uninterested.
"I felt helpless," Davis said. "It was dark. I didn't know what else to do, or who else to go to."
Davis said along with family and friends she handed out flyers with her son's photograph and went door to door asking neighbors if he'd been seen. After enlisting the help of Texas EquiSearch and contacting media outlets, HPD assigned several teams of Homicide investigators to the case.
Mona Nelson, who was a friend of Davis' room mate, told Davis that night that she'd stopped by the apartment earlier in the day and that the boy was there. Investigators began to suspect her after discovering the video recording of a woman who resembled Nelson, driving a Ford F-150 truck like hers dumping a trash container in the spot where the boy's body was later found.
Prosecutors will continue putting on witnesses Thursday. The trial is expected to last two weeks. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Nelson could get up to life in prison without parole if she's convicted.
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