More details released on Nissen

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Lyon County Sheriff's Office is seeking a man who they believe was once married to Wilma June Nissen, the woman whose body was found 27 years ago and identified in February.

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Lyon County Sheriff's Office is seeking a man who they believe was once married to Wilma June Nissen, the woman whose body was found 27 years ago and identified in February.

Donald Wellington is believed to have been Wilma's first husband, although no documentation has been found to confirm the marriage.

"Her original foster parents say she showed up saying she was married to him and was excited about it," Bloemendaal said.

The Lyon County Sheriff's Office has made a lot of progress in finding out more about the life of Wilma, but has yet to discover how she got to Iowa.

"Every day we find new things and are filling out her biography, but we have no information about the critical years of 1977 to 1978," Bloemendaal said.


They know Wilma's mother left her father when she was about 7 years old, and that she had a younger sister whose name is Mona.

Mona, who is still alive, is deaf and mute.

After June Nissen left Charles Nissen, he lost his home, and he and the two children lived out of a car.

"At about age nine, Wilma was sent out to look for food at times while Mona was kept locked in the truck," Bloemendaal said.

The children were eventually taken away from their father and put into foster care. Wilma went into the care of Maxine and Marshall Holt, where she stayed for more than a year. Although the Holts had to stop taking in foster kids because of health reasons, they continued to stay in touch with their foster children, and often spoke to Wilma on her birthdays.

She went through several more foster homes, at least five of them, before her final one.

The exact date of the marriage to Wellington is not a confirmed fact, but it was believed to be in 1973.

"All we can do is stab at it," Bloemendaal said.


Notes and dates written on the tops of some photographs by Maxine Holt are the only indication of when the wedding might have been.

"Wellington was with her for a period of time," Bloemendaal said. "He possibly had one or two kids with her. So I'm looking for him. I'm seeking him out to see what he can tell me."

There was a second husband in June of 1977. Robert Irvin married Wilma at what authorities believe is called Angel's Chapel in Long Beach, Calif.

In a wedding photo with Irvin, Wilma is pregnant. Authorities believe the child she was carrying is the woman that contacted them after Wilma's identity was first announced. The daughter's name has not been released pending DNA results.

Bloemendaal does know Irvin is dead, a fact he was able to confirm on Wednesday.

"He died July 27, 2000," he said. "His current wife died a short time later."

Bloemendaal and his investigation have been stymied more than once in this case because the people authorities were trying to locate are deceased.

The sheriff's office has been contacted with many unconfirmed facts about Wilma.


"There was a rumor she was hitchhiking to Florida with a man and a child and had the child taken away from her," Bloemendaal said. "We think she married numerous times but we're not sure she was ever divorced. We think her husbands were actually pimping her out. The addresses listed on arrest jackets are indicative of motel rooms."

Bloemendaal also believes Wilma was "pretty low functioning" and said one of her foster mothers referred to her as retarded.

"She had the equivalence of six months of education when she showed up at her first foster home," he added. "She didn't even know how to use silverware when she got there."

Bloemendaal wants the photos he received from the Holts available to the media in hopes more people will recognize Wilma.

"There were tremendous changes in her from 1973 to 1975 and then to 1977," he said. "You can tell on her 18th birthday she has chubby cheeks and looks healthy, but in 1977 she is looking gaunt and wore out."

What To Read Next
Get Local