JEFFERSON, Wis. – A 71-year-old real estate agent was found dead inside a home she had been showing, and authorities said Thursday that the man she had met there was arrested.
Ann B. Nelson, of Cambridge, was found dead Tuesday night next to a smoldering mattress at the smoke-filled rural home in the town of Oakland, authorities said.
The man she had seen there was arrested after he was brought in for questioning Wednesday night, said Jefferson County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Lawrence Lee.
The man, James Hole of Brookfield, Ill., was being held on a tentative charge of first-degree intentional homicide, Sheriff Paul Milbrath said in a news release.
Investigators say an autopsy concluded Nelson died of smoke inhalation, but she also had head injuries. A weapon was recovered, Lee said, but he declined to be more specific.
Nelson's family contacted authorities after she didn't return home Tuesday evening. Deputies tracked her down to the vacant home in Jefferson County and noticed smoke coming from it when they arrived about 9:20 p.m.
Barry Luce, an owner of RE/MAX Community Realty based in nearby Lake Mills, said Nelson worked for the firm for four years. Her death stunned colleagues.
"Everybody is very concerned," he said. "We can't believe something like this would happen in small town America."
Nelson had three sons, three daughters and 16 grandchildren and was active at church and in the community, said a son, Doug Nelson. "She was always willing to help. No task was ever too difficult," he said.
News of the incident prompted the Wisconsin Realtors Association to send a note to its members informing them that one of their fellow members was found dead at a vacant listing.
It urged them: "Please do not let your guard down — your safety is primary!"
Oakland is about 25 miles east of Madison.