Dale Nelson

September 6th, 1970 — On September 4th, while high on LSD and alcohol, Dale Merle Nelson killed 8 people just outside of Creston, BC. He was captured by police at this cabin two days later. At the time of the murder I was a photographer with the Edmonton Journal but vacationing near by. How I got to be one of two photographers at the capture is a story of skill and intuition. How the other photographer got to be there was pure blind luck on his part after getting lost on a back road near by. Both of us dug in behind logs as the police approached the cabin. Everyone expected a gun fight. When it didn’t happen both of us ran up the hill taking pictures as we ran. This is the only picture by either of us that was in focus or not blurred. I didn’t share it with the other photogapher. Click on the pictures below to scroll through a slide show.


32 Responses to “Dale Nelson”

  1. alison drever on July 7th, 2008

    My grandfather was Earl Brennan. He lent Dale Nelson the gun. My aunt sold him the bullets. They had no idea what he was going to do. The cabin in the picture is my grandfather’s. I would like to get a copy of the book written about the murders as well as copies of any photos available.

  2. William on September 9th, 2008

    Considering the gruesome specifics of his murder spree, you’d think there would be plenty of information available about this case. Turns out there’s very little in fact. So little that some would consider the case as an urban legend. I’m glad you posted this photograph. It’s the only one I’ve seen related to the case and it basically confirms those events really did happen.

  3. Loren on December 16th, 2008

    The book is called “The limits of sanity” By Larry Still. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH

  4. Debbie on December 31st, 2008

    Because of the severe shortage of information it may seem like an urban legend but it isn’t. I was Sharlene’s school friend in Creston when this horrible disaster happened to her family and the Phipps family.
    Does anyone know what sentence Nelson received?

  5. admin on January 2nd, 2009

    A slide show of all the pictures taken by me has now been added to this post.

  6. Jay on January 23rd, 2009

    Nelson received a life sentence. Does anyone know if he is still alive ?

  7. Debbie on February 4th, 2009

    If he only received a life sentence then he is either free by this time or dead. I would be interested to know his status too. How do we find out? There is so little information anywhere about this. I wonder why?

  8. Anonymous on February 12th, 2009

    He was my grandpa’s brother.
    He’s the one thing that isn’t talked about in my family…
    I was shocked to find out about this..

  9. Debbie on February 15th, 2009

    So sad that you had to learn about this tragedy. Please don’t read the book about this. You don’t need those images in your head, they don’t go away and it’s not worth it because it doesn’t change anything.

  10. William on February 17th, 2009

    I see new photos have been added. Thank you. They really bring this awful tragedy to life. I first read about this case a few years ago and it kinda stayed with me since I wanted definite proof that this horrendous event really happened because it almost seemed too impossible to be true. I honestly thought the whole story was made up for a while. There’s zero information on Mr. Nelson after he was sentenced to life in prison so I don’t know if he’s still alive or not. Hopefully he was forever haunted by his actions.

  11. Debbie on February 19th, 2009

    I just talked with my Dad about this today. Dale Nelson’s court appointed lawyer, Mickey Moran, was my Dad’s friend and his lawyer. My Dad was in Moran’s office when he received word that he had to defend Mr. Nelson. His comments can’t be repeated here but to say that he wasn’t happy about it is an understatement.

  12. admin on February 19th, 2009

    I recently found your pictures on Google from the Dale Merle Nelson murders in Creston, B.C. On that Labor Day weekend in 1970 I was a 22-year old reporter at the radio station in Creston, the only announcer at the small station.

    It was 8am Saturday morning, Sept. 5, 1970, when I received the phone call tipping me off about the murders. Your photos brought back some vivid memories, most notably of the inside of the Phipps house. On the Sunday morning, just a few hours before Nelson was arrested, the RCMP took myself and other reporters on an inside tour of the house.

    For years I’ve been trying to find out what happened to Dale Merle Nelson and recently received some information he died a number of years ago, in prison, from some kind of terminal disease.

    On the Friday, Sept. 4, I was doing an on air shift at the Creston radio station and in the afternoon one of the Phipps children, I think his name was Paul, phoned in and won an on air contest I was doing. A few hours later he and the rest of his family were dead. That may have been his last phone call, and of course he never had a chance to pick up his prize, a pack of 45rpm records.

    Thanks for posting the pictures. They bring back a tragic, but from a journalist view, very memorable part of my past. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about what happened on that weekend 39 years ago.

    “From an email sent by Earl Seitz of Kamloops.”

  13. Debbie on February 26th, 2009

    I appreciate your comments and information. I too think about this everyday and your email sets my mind at ease a little.

  14. Marc McLean on March 6th, 2009

    My father was one of the RCMP looking for Nelson in 1970. He was guarding one of the houses that the murders took place. My father and several members took off to look for Nelson but in the meantime Nelson returned to get one of the bodies and ended up putting it in the back seat of my father’s police car not realizing it wasn’t his car. This is not an urban legend!

  15. Mark on March 15th, 2009

    This has been interesting and not more than a little haunting to read everyone’s comments here. I lived in Creston from 1968-70 and I knew Paul Phipps. He was a good kid, very quiet and polite. He was my age and he was in the classroom across the hall. Our family left Creston in June 1970 but I remember my last day of school there. Paul joined us to watch the older kids play baseball. I later read about the killings while at the Sands hotel in Vancouver, on the front page of The Sun newspaper and was absolutely shocked. In 1992, by chance, I met a former policeman who was at the murder scene and he recounted what happened that night – it was still very difficult for him to talk about it.

    As the journalist pointed out (in one of the previous messages), Nelson died in prison in the mid-1990s. The Province newspaper featured a photo and article on his death at the time. I’ve always wondered what impact this terrible tragedy had on the survivors and the kids I went to school with and how they are all doing today. I’ve never been back to Creston.

  16. Debbie on March 16th, 2009

    Mark: I was Sharlene’s school friend before the tragedy. She would come to my house on occasion for lunch during school. I wasn’t in school for very long after it happened. I was pulled out and then we left Creston in 1971 when my parents divorced. I wasn’t able to be in touch with anyone when we left but this has been a part of me and my memories for my whole life. I could never forget it although, being young, alot of the details were sketchy until I read the book about it. If you would like to contact me personally, feel free.

  17. Deb M on May 29th, 2009

    I’ve been searching for days for information about this tragedy. I was a young teenager, living in nearby Cranbrook at the time the murders took place. I’ve never forgotten the horror we all felt at the time. Our parents were terrified while awaiting his capture. I now have a daughter living in the beautiful Creston Valley and hope to visit the museum archives on my next visit to the area.

  18. Debbie on June 3rd, 2009

    I’d be interested to learn what you discover, if anything, at the archives. Please keep us informed.

  19. Mark on July 17th, 2009

    I found a website called the Google Newspaper Archive, with millions of newspaper articles from the past.

    Many require Pay for View, but there are literally thousands of old articles that are free to read online. Several from 1970 include articles on this tragedy, mostly from American papers. One has a photo of Nelson in custody at the Creston jail.

  20. D on August 20th, 2009

    I have met his exwife and grandaughter. They have not mentioned any of this to me but they seem to be okay. Lot’s of other family problems to worry about. You wonder if this is the legacy he left.

  21. D on August 20th, 2009

    Also, does anyone know if he really passed away? I am fairly new to Creston but have heard many oldtimers mention this, yet they also admit they don’t really know. Why is the book so expensive? Because it’s out of print. I am interested in reading it, but not quite sure if I should. Thanks for your help.

  22. Amanda on August 22nd, 2009

    Did he have any kids of his own?

  23. Cheryl Hoath on September 2nd, 2009

    I lived in Creston at that time. I was 11 then. I always wanted to read the book but I think all the storys I heard back then is enough for me, something I’ll never forget. My little sister went to school with Sharlene. My aunt who know Dale told me he died of a heart attack in jail. I hope he did. I was looking for information on another Creston murder when I found this site. I was looking for the Duray Richards murder case (Jann Arden’s brother) it happened in 1992. Anyone know were I can look to find any info?

  24. Lori on September 7th, 2009

    Isabelle, the common law wife of Ray Phipps was my mother’s little sister. Isabelle was my aunt. These murders occured on my 5th birthday. My father was the family member who volunteered to identify the bodies. This is not an urban myth. It is very much a real event for my family . Dale Nelson died of a heart attack in jail several years ago. Prior to his death he became eligible for parole but was denied. It was during this tense time (possible parole) that Dale Nelson was brought up in conversation between my father and grandmother. They were both very upset that he may get paroled. I was a teenager at the time and began asking questions. My father and grandmother finally decided to tell me the story of Sept 4, 1970. I have also read the book “The Limits of Sanity”. There was very little in the book that I didn’t know already. What I found interesting is why Dale Nelson was never found insane. I was 4 when I met my aunt, uncle and cousins (The Phipps) for the first time but too young to remember them. This was one year prior to their murders. This is a very tragic event that had a huge impact on many members of my family. Isabelle had 5 sisters, 6 brothers and many a niece and nephew. I was 5 but I will never forget what happened.

  25. anonymous on September 25th, 2009

    Yes, he’s dead. I’m his nephew so I’m sure of it. He died of lung cancer in prison and was given the chance of parole but he turned it down . He didnt feel that he deserved it.

  26. admin on December 12th, 2009

    NOTE: I closed comments on this series of pictures because there was a large amount of spam. Today, however, I received the following email which I have posted. Comments will remain open until spam again becomes a problem.

    To whom it may concern:

    Sadly, I am Dale’s biological daughter. I was five years old at the time of the murders and was taken into protective custody for my safety on that weekend, as we were on his hit list as well. To clarify a few things, yes he died in prison of throat cancer. What a relief that was, as he kept applying for parole every chance he got. In fact, while fighting his parole, the officer that interviewed me told me that he had counseled Dale for several years and Dale had made it very clear that he had not finished what he set out to do. His intent was to finish the job if ever he was released. According to that parole officer, my mother and 2 sisters were on his agenda. Everyone involved in this whole ordeal banned together and petitioned against his release and we won. According to all family members, the book was not correct in all events that transpired. Apparently the only reason that the family did not pursue a law suit was because of the emotional duress. They wanted to put the whole ordeal behind them. I am not defending him. It was a horrible, brutal rampage, but the book was basically fiction.

    I wish to remain anonymous, but if the owners of this site wish to contact me, please reply by email. If you need more information, you can leave me a phone number and I will contact you.

  27. admin on February 13th, 2010

    Received as email Feb 13, 2010:

    I was an inmate in the BC Penitentiary from 1972 to 1974. Nelson was also an inmate there. He was nicknamed “Cornflakes” by the other prisoners because of the undigested cornflakes he had eaten from one of the victim’s slit open stomach. He spent much of his time in protective custody locked away from the other prisoners. He would be released into the general population for short periods until he was severely beaten by other prisoners, then placed back into protective custody. My understanding is that the reason he was kept at the BC Pen where he was well known, & not transferred to another prison with a fictitious name which was often done in those days, is that he refused to request a transfer because he was receiving visits from friends or family & his lawyer regarding the appeal process. I also read the book Limits of Sanity. What strikes me in this case is that because of the horror of it, most people seem to want to ignore the fact that someone “slipped” LSD to this person causing the horrific chain of events.

    Formerly Inmate 4058

  28. Daughter of Nelson on February 16th, 2010

    Again, I am his biological daughter. I am responding to the above post from this former inmate. Dale was a drug addict for several years prior to this tragic event. I went hungry many nights because of his addiction problems. He always held a good paying job, but we went hungry. I am sorry if you believe that he was slipped a hit of acid. I don’t!!!

  29. Daughter of Nelson on February 17th, 2010

    Further more, I spent the first five years of my life with this man. My memory is unbelievable! I can remember daily events from the time I was 18 months old. I saw him nearly kill my mother more than once and he was by no means a good father. He was sick and twisted and very mean by nature. He always did some very bazzare things. I was terrified of the man. I try not to think of the fact that I have his DNA flowing through my vains, as that thought sickens me.

  30. Cory on February 17th, 2010

    Nelson’s Daughter, so sorry. Life must have been hard, and probably still is. You by no means have to explain his life or yours. Hope you and your family are well. I wasn’t born then but know the “stories”. Take care of yourself!

  31. peter fodey on February 17th, 2010

    As someone posted earlier, this case is little known despite the sheer horror of
    it. Dale Nelson was the classic ticking time-bomb that nobody recognized.
    They’re out there everywhere.

    To Dale’s daughter – you are not your father. You sound like a decent person to

  32. Cameron on March 11th, 2010

    I was born and raised in Creston Bc. I have been googling this information and been out to the sites many times. Living in Creston these events are never talked about. My mom worked with Dales wife at one point. I’ve read the books and I am looking for any contacts to the family and or persons who would have a email addy that I can reach them at. I have a thought. My the daughter of nelson could reply to me. cwasnea@gmail.com