Austin Nelson didn’t react well when his 15-year-old girlfriend broke off their relationship, saying she no longer wanted to lie to her mother.
In less than two weeks, authorities say, he vandalized his former girlfriend’s car while it was parked at a school and posted sexual photographs and videos of her on social media.
On Monday, Pierce County prosecutors allege, he fatally shot the girl’s mother outside the family’s South Hill house in front of her 5-year-old sister.
Nelson, 19, was arraigned Tuesday in Superior Court on a charge of first-degree murder in the slaying of Teresa Ryan, 46. He also faces charges of first-degree burglary and first-degree animal cruelty.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges. Bail was set at $2 million.
During Nelson’s arraignment, the courtroom was filled with an emotional crowd of Ryan’s friends and family. Her uncle, Mark Tyler, said afterward that he hoped justice will be served.
He said Ryan was a humorous straight talker with many friends who hosted Super Bowl parties at her home.
Choking back tears, Tyler said his niece fell victim to a culture of domestic violence that must be addressed.
“It’s a tragedy that her life has been stolen by a miserable excuse of a human being,” he said.
It’s a tragedy that her life has been stolen by a miserable excuse of a human being.
Mark Tyler, uncle of shooting victim Teresa Ryan
Charging documents give this account of Monday’s fatal shooting:
Nelson and the girl began dating in September. When Ryan found out her daughter was dating an older boy, she told Nelson to stay away.
At some point, the daughter again started seeing Nelson. To keep her parents from finding out, the girl allowed Nelson to sneak into the family’s house through a back door after her parents went to sleep.
On Dec. 6, someone broke into the family’s home in the 12000 block of 142nd Street Court East and stole guns, a vacuum and other items. The Ryan family did not report the break-in at the time.
The girl broke up with Nelson on Jan. 8, “telling him that she did not want to continue lying to her mother,” records show.
Nelson was upset, but the girl stood her ground.
He called her Wednesday to say he loved her, but the girl handed the phone to a friend, who advised Nelson to stop calling.
On Friday, Nelson allegedly sent his ex-girlfriend a text message threatening to vandalize her SUV.
Later that day, the girl found two windows had been broken out and three tires flattened while her car was parked outside her school.
That’s when the girl talked to her parents and they decided to call the Sheriff’s Department to report the vandalism and earlier burglary, for which they believed Nelson was responsible.
Deputies went to the Ryans’ South Hill home on Sunday to interview them and take a report on a series of text messages sent to the girl threatening to post photos and videos of her having sex with Nelson if she didn’t come up with money or marijuana.
The graphic images were posted on social media Sunday.
Ryan sent her daughter to sleep over at a friend’s “because the family thought she should be away from the house for the night,” according to charging papers.
On Monday, Ryan and her youngest daughter were returning home about 8:15 a.m. when she stopped her Ford Explorer on the street in front of their house.
A neighbor reported hearing an argument and looking outside to see Ryan having a confrontation with a man in a black hooded sweatshirt.
Three gunshots sounded and Ryan fell to the ground. The shooter ran through the family’s yard, squeezed through a wooden fence and fled.
A neighbor gave chase but was unable to catch the gunman.
Ryan’s 5-year-old daughter, who was in the backseat of the Explorer, ran to a neighbor’s house for help.
Officials said Ryan was shot once in the chest and twice in the back. She died at the scene.
At some point, investigators allege, Nelson shot one of the family’s two dogs upstairs in the home.
The back door was shattered and five shot had been fired in the house.
No one else was home at the time of the shooting. Ryan’s husband was at work, sheriff’s spokesman Jerry Bates said.
Nelson was quickly identified as a suspect and arrested at his grandfather’s house in Tacoma.
“His grandfather told deputies that the defendant had a gun, but he took it away from him because the defendant would leave it sitting around the house,” records show.
Nelson asked his grandfather for the gun on Saturday, saying he planned to sell it.
The grandfather gave it to him.
Staff writer Kari Plog contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653