Who Killed Wilma June Nissen?
Authorities believe two escorts named “Sugar” and “Peaches” may have robbed and killed Wilma in 1978.
On October 4, 1978, a telephone employee laying cable stumbled upon the deceased body of a female in Lyon County, Iowa, near Highway 182. The woman was referred to as Jane Doe for almost three decades. On January 31, 2006, she was finally identified as 23-year-old Wilma June Nissen by a lab technician when her left thumbprint matched a print card in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Wilma’s daughter Krissi recently reached out to me and shared her biological mother’s heartbreaking story. She was only one when her mother disappeared, and spent years wondering what happened to her. Krissi found out her mother had been killed when a friend sent her a newspaper article stating Wilma had been identified as Jane Doe from Lyon County. Ever since then, Krissi has devoted her life to catching Wilma’s killer(s) and bringing them to justice.
Wilma was born on October 19, 1954, in San Francisco, California, to Charles and June Nissen. She had a younger sister named Mona who was mute and deaf. June abandoned both daughters when Wilma was eight, leaving them in Charles' care. Unfortunately, Charles was an incredibly neglectful parent. He would lock Wilma and Mona in a closet while he went to work. Oftentimes, Charles would even lock Mona in the trunk of his car.
Wilma and Mona never went to school and by the age of ten, Wilma still did not know how to read, write, or even use a fork to eat. Charles ultimately lost his job, at which point he and the girls became homeless and lived in his car.
Eventually, Wilma and Mona were placed in separate foster homes. Mona’s timeline is unknown but Wilma was placed into the care of Marshall and Maxine Holte in December of 1964, at age ten. Wilma lived with the Holte’s for roughly two years until Maxine had a health problem and could no longer care for her. In the year 1966, Wilma was placed in several different foster homes. In 1967, she was placed into her last foster home in the care of Vince and Alice Haas. They claimed they taught Wilma how to read and write while in their care.
At the age of 20, in 1974, Wilma became involved in prostitution as a means of survival. She often wore go-go boots (her nickname was ‘boots) and hitchhiked everywhere she went. She worked at various parties in Sioux Falls and Lyon County as an escort. She married several times and had 2 children.
1973: Wilma marries Donald Eugene Wellington (now deceased) and the couple resides in Hollywood.
1974: Wilma and Donald’s relationship dissolves and she marries Michael Palazzo (now deceased). On May 10, 1974, Wilma gives birth to Michael Palazzo Jr.
1975: Wilma begins a relationship with Robert Irvin (now deceased). The couple marries on June 21, 1977, and resides in Bellflower, California. On August 18, 1977, Wilma gives birth to Crystal (Krissi) Joy Irvin. Both Michael and Krissi were taken away from Wilma and placed into the foster care system. Krissi was later adopted by Vince and Alice Haas, Wilma’s final foster family.
February 1978: Wilma leaves Robert and moves to Atlanta, Georgia, with 54-year-old Charles Inman Belt. The couple lives in Charles’ mother's home. A few days later, Wilma leaves and relocates to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is her last confirmed location.
February to August 1978: Wilma’s whereabouts are unknown but police believe she worked as an escort for private parties in Sioux Falls and Lyon County. Charles tells the police after Wilma left, he never heard from her again. Wilma’s body was badly decomposed when found in October and police believe she was killed sometime between June and August of 1978.
Wilma was found face down, naked from the waist up. Green khaki pants and her underwear were wrapped around her left leg, suggesting she may have been sexually assaulted. Wilma was wearing white calf-length go-go boots and a braided hemp rope was tied around her feet. Her arms, hands and hair were brought forward, suggesting she had been dragged by the rope, possibly from a vehicle, into the ditch.
Wilma wore a ring on her left ring finger, it was silver, indented with gold. Her lower jaw was missing and she had only two teeth left when found (an animal attack was ruled out.) Wilma’s left elbow was dislocated. She had damage to her cervical vertebra and a skull fracture, 2" above her right eye. Police believe she may have been alive when she sustained those injuries and that she fought back against her killer.
Authorities say Wilma suffered an “especially vicious” death and in a manner only the killer would know. For this reason, they will not release her cause of death.
In 2007, authorities exhumed Wilma’s body to retrieve DNA evidence but were incredibly disheartened to find the grave was filled with water, and the evidence had been worn away by the elements.
Possible Suspect Named
In May of 2016, authorities named an escort who goes by the name “Sugar” as a possible suspect and published her photo to the media. They claim “Sugar” was an escort and dancer who had a history of robbing other escorts and even clients, in Sioux Falls and Lyon County — the same areas where Wilma worked as an escort.
According to authorities, “Sugar” fled to Canada right after Wilma’s murder and only returned to the United States after she was involved in a stabbing. Authorities say they interviewed “Sugar” several times but she never admitted to any involvement in Wilma’s murder.
Authorities believe “Sugar” had an accomplice by the name of “Peaches” — her partner in crime. They believe “Peaches” worked alongside Wilma. “Peaches” is described as a light-skinned black female from Yankton, South Dakota. She also frequented Thunder Bay, Ontario. Authorities believe “Sugar” and “Peaches” robbed Wilma during one of the parties in Sioux Falls or Lyon County and then dumped her body. “Peaches” has never been identified or spoken to by the authorities. Today, “Sugar” and “Peaches” would be in their sixties.
Authorities say they received an anonymous letter stating Wilma was seen alive on August 26, 1978. This has not been confirmed as the writer of the letter is unknown.
It has been 43 years since Wilma was killed. If you have any information, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, please can contact Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 712–472–8326, 712–472–8311 or 712–472–8300. You can also call the anonymous tip hotline at 712–472–8334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a reward of $10,000 available for any tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of Wilma’s killer(s). Help Krissi get closure and bring her mother’s killer(s) to justice.
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