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Tucson man facing murder trial now charged with illegally voting from jail in 2020 election

A Tucson man has been accused of illegally voting in the 2020 election while he was an inmate at the Pima County Jail, facing a murder trial in the 2019 killing of his wife.

Kenneth Russell Nelson, 45, now faces charges that include three counts of illegally registering to vote and casting a ballot and one count of false registration while he was being held at the jail.

Nelson was indicted by a grand jury in September. He allegedly completed a voter registration form in 2018 indicating that he had not been convicted of a felony or that his rights had been restored. Nelson was convicted of a felony — aggravated DUI with a suspended license — and lost his right to vote in Sept. 2007.

Despite this Nelson voted in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and cast his vote while he was at the jail following his May 2019 arrest for first-degree murder after he admitted to killing his wife, 37-year-old Cyndie Nelson, according to law enforcement and court records.

Court documents showed that Nelson admitted to the murder, telling police that he killed his wife with a pocket knife after she attempted to leave him. In a bizarre set of details, Nelson texted a photo of his deceased wife to a family member, who immediately called police. Police found Nelson with blood on his clothes, arms and legs, and he told police that killing his wife "wasn't as satisfying as I thought," the Arizona Daily Star reported in 2019.

Voting records show that Nelson was a registered Republican, and lived in Midtown Tucson.

A divorce case between the Nelsons was filed a month before Cyndie Nelson was killed. Pima County Superior Court records indicate that it was filed by Kenneth Nelson.

Brnovich said that the voting case was investigated and is being prosecuted by the Election Integrity Unit, a part of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The unit was established in 2019 and has pursued more than a dozen investigations, including the 2019 prosecution of Randy Allen Jumper, a longtime Republican who cast ballots in Tucson and Washoe County, Nevada, during the 2016 election.

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Election integrity has become a centerpiece of Brnovich's campaign for the Senate, as he strives to overtake Sen. Mark Kelly in the 2022 election.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson is prosecuting the case, Brnovich said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect year for Cyndie Nelson’s death.


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Kenneth Nelson was arrested in 2019 and faces trial in the murder of his wife, and now the Arizona AG's Office has accused him of voting illegally in 2018 and 2020.

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