Cyle Van Komen & Kevin Nelson
On the evening of December 9th, 2016, a home invasion in South Ogden, Utah quickly turned violent. Two were killed and one was left injured, but police were able to recover evidence pointing towards their culprits: surveillance footage, which captured three masked individuals casing the home prior to the attack…
December 9th, 2016 was a cold winter day in South Ogden, Utah - a small town in Weber County, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City. That Friday, the temperature hovered around freezing for most of the day, dipping down into the 20's as the sun sank below the horizon.
A young man named Brock Van Komen lived along the 3600 block of Ogden Avenue: a residential neighborhood just a block or so away from Washington Boulevard, which is a busy thoroughfare in South Ogden. For reference, this neighborhood is just a short drive away from Weber State University, and is home to as many families as it is to college students.
The house that Brock lived in most closely resembled a college house: he lived there with a handful of other young men, including two of his own brothers. The house was known as a bit of a party pad - having had the cops called once or twice for loud music over the last calendar year - but the guys that lived there weren't too rowdy. They got along with most of their neighbors, and were, by and large, really friendly to everyone.
That evening, Brock was planning to go bowling with his brothers and a group of friends, but wanted to go out and grab a bite to eat ahead of time. So he and his stepbrother set out to go and buy some cheap, microwavable food, leaving behind three of their roommates.
Unbeknownst to any of them, a group of three masked individuals had been observing this house from a distance. These three - who were all wearing plastic masks - had been watching the residents of 3636 Ogden Avenue for several minutes. When Brock and his stepbrother left, these three masked individuals began approaching the house, holding firearms. They began peering into windows, closely watching those inside... and preparing for the violence that was to come.
Brock and his stepbrother were only gone for about ten minutes, but by the time they returned to the house, lives had already been lost. Among them were one of their brothers, as well as an older neighbor, who had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is the story of Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson.
Cyle John Van Komen was born on January 27th, 1992, to his parents, Ranae and Jerry John Van Komen (who goes by "JJ").
Eventually, his parents would split up - with his mother eventually marrying Cyle's stepfather, Brad Finch; and JJ marrying Karly Van Komen - but Cyle would have seven brothers and sisters, named Brock, Ashley, Taylohr, Bryson, Preston, Chloe, and Paisley. That is, of course, in addition to numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins; many of whom were closer in age to Cyle than they were to his parents.
Cyle grew up in the region of West Point and Syracuse, Utah - just about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City. There, he attended Syracuse High School, and began to develop into the kind, funny, and heartwarming individual he would be remembered as.
Growing up in Utah, Cyle was exposed to many outdoor activities he would come to cherish: such as hiking, fishing, snowboarding, rock climbing, camping, and boating. Cyle was always finding new things to try outdoors - activities he would enjoy with his friends and family - and many still remember Cyle seeming to spend more time outside than in.
But Cyle's true passion in life was hockey - which he not only played well into his 20's, but watched avidly. His father, JJ, recalls this obsession starting when they attended a Utah Grizzlies game together:
"We had season tickets and one time they had a night where you could go out on the ice and skate with the players. At that point, he was like 4 or 5 and he didn't even have a pair of skates. But we got him skates and he went down there and the captain of the team saw him off, kind of by himself and started working with him. As soon as he learned to skate, he started playing hockey."
Among those that knew Cyle, he was one of the most outgoing individuals around; the kind of person that could turn anyone into a friend (whom he would refer to as "his family"). Cyle was described as being avidly loyal, constantly making everyone around him feel like they were his best friend. Nick Van Komen, Cyle's uncle that was three years his senior - close enough in age to be a brother - later recalled:
"He would stand up for people. If someone took a run at someone, [Cyle] would be right there. He was only 5-5 or 5-6, but he acted like he was seven feet tall in those situations."
Everyone that knew Cyle thought that they were his best friend; which, of course, just meant that Cyle had dozens of them. He had a way of befriending everyone on their own terms, regardless of age, gender, race, profession, etc. He was particularly fond of children, including his younger sister, Chloe, who was less than half his own age. Their mother, Ranae Finch, later stated:
"He doted on her. He would have these real conversations with her, on her level and he would tell her she could be anything or do anything she wanted."
Cyle always told his loved ones "I hear ya," and there was never any dispute that he meant it. He was always there to hear your problems and help out however he could; and, if possible, he'd do whatever he could to make you laugh afterwards.
Following his graduation from Syracuse High School, Cyle had begun to float around, just enjoying his young adult life. He had been working a job in construction, and was living at a house in South Ogden, Utah - not too far away from where he had grown up. There, he lived with a handful of other guys, who were all in their late teens and early twenties. The exact number of roommates seems to vary between publications - with some sources claiming that Cyle had three roommates and others claiming he had five - but we do know for a fact that Cyle was rarely alone. This house constantly had people coming and going, and this included two of his own brothers, who both lived there with Cyle in Fall of 2016.
In the same neighborhood lived an older man named Kevin Nelson - nicknamed "Mushy" - who, like Cyle, was well-liked and adored by all.
Kevin Dale Nelson had been born on March 14th, 1955, to his parents Volney DeForged Nelson and Mary Joan Gabey. He was just one of seven children, and grew up in Weber County, Utah - where he would live for the entirety of his life.
Kevin began supporting his family at an early age, taking on a paper route to help his parents pay the bills while he attended South Ogden Junior High School. He later attended Bonneville High School, and - following his graduation - began working a series of random jobs through the 1970's and early 1980's.
In 1984, Kevin opened up his own shop in downtown Ogden, called Automotive Electronics Specialist, where he was able to merge two of his passions in life: working on cars and working on electronics. Through this business, Kevin became known through the region as an honorable, hardworking guy who you could count on to finish any job for an honest price.
Kathy Backer, a longtime friend of Kevin's, recalled:
"When I bought my home in 1997, I hired [Kevin] to make electrical repairs. He never tried to sell me something I didn't need or fix something that wasn't broken. He was someone I could totally trust.
"He was forced to retire due to health issues, and his business closed because of this. I didn't see much of him after that, but when I did, he always had a warm smile and hug for any of his old friends (and) customers."
Kevin had once been married to a woman named Diane, who had a daughter from a previous marriage named Stephanie. The two had a daughter of their own - named Joany - but by the time Kevin retired, their marriage had long since ended in divorce. This left Kevin by himself in his house along Ogden Avenue, although he was rarely ever truly alone - being known as a kindred spirit that made friends anywhere.
By 2016, Kevin had settled into his early retirement, spending his days by collecting records, playing guitar, and rooting on his favorite team, the Denver Broncos. In his neighborhood, he was known as the friendly older guy that everyone lived. He lived across the street from Cyle Van Komen and his house of young bucks, and neighbors recall them having a friendly, joking relationship. Cyle and the other younger guys always called Kevin "Gramps" or "Grandpa Nelson," which usually earned a clever retort in return.
Cyrus Martinez, a neighbor that lived on Ogden Avenue, recalled:
"They would mess with him like that. Then Kevin would say, 'I'm not that old, damn it,' and they'd all laugh. He was friendly with those guys, just like he was with everybody else in the neighborhood."
December 9th, 2016 was a regular enough Friday - as far as anyone in South Ogden, Utah was concerned.
Like I explained in the episode introduction, this was a pretty cold day, with temperatures hovering around freezing. A recently-fallen blanket of snow covered driveways and sidewalks, and everyone was already well-settled into their winter attire, having donned jackets and sweatshirts in the months prior.
That evening, Brock Van Komen - Cyle's brother and roommate - left their house at around 7:45 PM, heading to a nearby store to buy some Hot Pockets. He left with their stepbrother, leaving behind Cyle and another roommate or two.
At around the same time they left, Kevin Nelson - the older man that lived across the street - wandered over to their house, striking up a conversation with Cyle and his roommates. This wasn't unusual, as Kevin had just left another neighbor's house, and was known as a gregarious individual. Him getting distracted on his way home wasn't out of the realm of possibility.
Over the next ten minutes or so, all hell would break loose. What happened inside that house during this small period of time remains unknown, but by the time Brock Van Komen and his stepbrother returned - just ten or so minutes later - they returned to a house full of carnage.
At 7:58 PM, police were called to a shooting on the 3600 block of Ogden Avenue. Minutes later, police arrived at the scene, and began cautiously approaching the house: 3636 Ogden Avenue. From the outside, they didn't see anything out of the ordinary - or any sign of apparent violence - but the interior of the house was a different story altogether.
Inside the house, police found two bodies; both of whom were already-deceased by the time officers arrived. One appeared to have been shot "execution-style," and the other was similarly shot to death. Both of the victims were of differing ages: one being a younger, college-aged male and the other being an older male of retirement age.
Despite only finding two shooting victims inside the house, a third was found in the backyard: a 20-year-old Hispanic male, who had been shot in the neck and was clinging to life. This was a roommate of Cyle's, who would be transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Police would lock down the area around the crime scene that evening, shutting down thru-traffic in the neighborhood and conducting a door-to-door canvas for information. They also began searching neighboring yards for most of the night, according to residents, who recall police expanding their search until the morning hours. Crime scene investigators would remain on the property until Saturday evening, looking for any clues pointing to the culprits' identities.
Police officials would not immediately reveal any specific information, stating only that two of the shooting victims were found deceased at the crime scene and that a third had been rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment (where he was fighting for his life in critical condition). The identity of this third victim would be withheld for their own safety, but the identity of the two deceased victims would be released later that weekend, and police were already referring to them as:
"... apparent victims of a homicide."
The investigation into this shocking crime was headed by the South Ogden Police Department, who immediately reached out to receive assistance and guidance from the Weber County Attorney's Office.
Initially, police refused to reveal much in the way of information; not even releasing the identities of the two victims until they were able to notify the next-of-kin. However, officials quickly announced that there seemed to be no risk of the offenders striking again, with South Ogden Police Sergeant Wil Dehart stating:
"Public safety is not a risk at this point, I can tell you that."
Sergeant DeHart would later describe the circumstances of the shooting as "disgusting," but would not expand on that. Other police officials would reveal that a violent home robbery had taken place, and that at least three shooting victims had been home at the time of the robbery. It was believed that a fourth person had been at the home at the time of the shooting - another roommate of Cyle's - but he had been able to escape before being targeted by the gunmen.
Before the police released the names of the deceased, those in the community seemed to have a pretty good idea on who had been killed in this tragic shooting. After all, Cyle's brothers had returned to the scene just minutes after the shooting took place, and had to see the tragic scene with their own two eyes.
Meanwhile, a neighbor and lifelong friend of Kevin Nelson's - named Sam Martinez - spoke to reporters about him being unable to get in-touch with Kevin all of Friday evening and Saturday, preceding the official police announcement that he was one of the two deceased. Martinez said that he had been hanging out with Kevin earlier that evening, until around 7:30, at which point Kevin had likely wandered over to Cyle's home.
It wasn't until Sunday, December 11th, 2016 - two days after the shooting - that police finally released the names of the two murder victims: Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson. They would refuse to release the name of the third shooting victim, who was still in critical condition at the local ICU, citing investigative concerns. Speaking to reporters, Sergeant Wil DeHart stated about this shooting survivor:
"The last I heard, I spoke with his father this morning around 9, and he was still struggling."
The identity of this third victim would be withheld as police continued their investigation. Not only did police do this to maintain the integrity of their investigation, but they withheld his name from the press for his own safety and well-being.
There was supposedly a fourth person in the house that night: another roommate of Cyle's, who had managed to run away unscathed in the chaos of the home invasion. I haven't read about this roommate in any official documentation - only seeing this detail in some scattered news reports - so I'm not quite sure if this roommate was home at the time. I'm sure that police know for sure whether or not this person was at-home at the time of the shooting, but police have kept specific details about the shooting pretty close to the vest from the inception of this investigation.
As police began to expand the scope of their investigation - focusing on what they referred to as "solid leads" - the loved ones of the victims had to prepare for the fallout that comes from any violent crime... and the funerals that followed.
Both of the victims - Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson - were remembered by their friends and family members, as well as the local community, which really stepped up to show support for their loved ones.
Following the official police announcement that Sunday (December 11th, 2016), a public vigil was held at the Rainbow Saloon in Roy, Utah. Here, family members and friends of both victims gathered to commiserate, share memories, and celebrate the lives of both men.
Channing Tipiani, a friend of Cyle, remembered him:
"He was very genuine. He showed love to anyone who showed him the same. He loved all of us."
Ranae Finch, Cyle's mother, spoke to reporters about her son and his sudden, tragic loss:
"Right now, we still don't know what's going on, why it happened, anything like that. My son was a peaceful kid. He was always preaching loyalty, family, and he wanted a peaceful world. That's why this is so hard to figure out."
Eventually, balloons with written messages for both Cyle and Kevin were lifted up into the air, giving the loved ones of each a chance to say goodbye.
A candlelight vigil for both would follow just two days later: on December 13th, 2016, which was held at South Ogden City Hall. Like the candlelight vigil, this was a teary-eyed affair full of good memories - and the tragic reminder that both Cyle and Kevin were gone .
Despite living a pretty solitary life, Kevin Nelson was remembered by his friends and family, who gathered at the public ceremonies to pass on their memories of the man they knew as "Mushy." Sam Martinez, his longtime friend and neighbor, recalled:
"We still can't believe it. He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, honestly. I think that's how he'll be remembered."
Debbie Workman, another one of Kevin's friends, told reporters:
"He was one of the most kind, gentle men I have ever met. He was easygoing and funny, the peacemaker. The world is a little less bright with the loss of our friend."
Thankfully, neither Kevin nor Cyle were truly gone for good. Memories of each would continue to exist in the minds of those that knew them, and their legacies continue on today. In fact, less than a month after this tragic ordeal, Cyle's stepmother, Karly, would give birth to a baby boy - who was named Cyler, in Cyle's honor.
On Tuesday, December 13th - just about four days after the shooting - police officials prepared to release information about the unsolved case. This information was released in the form of a press release, which police hoped would compel someone - anyone - to come forward with some more revealing information.
An excerpt from this press release read:
"Home security camera systems captured three suspects watching the home prior to the shootings, and one of them fleeing the area afterward. The suspects are wearing masks.
"This was not a random target of opportunity, but one specifically focused on this home. People familiar with this home and the victims may also be familiar with the suspects. For that reason, footage from those systems is being released today."
The goals that police were hoping to accomplish with this release were as follows:
"First, identify who the suspects are: note their physical stature, mannerisms, clothing, and accessories.
"Second, remind folks two people have been killed and another is fighting for his life. Whatever activity was occurring, either at the home or involved at least one of the victims someplace else relevant to this event needs to be shared with investigators. Our focus is on homicide. If someone with information is reluctant to come forward because they participated in less serious offenses either at the home, or with the victims; know that we are focused on homicide. Do not let concern about a prior potential offense keep you from coming forward. We're not concerned about it, and neither should they.
"Third, we want to be able to tell Kevin and Cyle's loved ones and this community why this happened, and see justice is done."
Along with this press release, police released three video clips from a security surveillance system, which had been recording the exterior of the house where Cyle Van Komen lived (and where he, along with two other men, had been shot). The figures seen in the footage had undoubtedly been involved in the violent shooting, as they were recorded observing Cyle Van Komen's house for several minutes, and then lurking just outside of the house with firearms.
Unfortunately, all of the footage was recorded in night vision, so it was lacking in significant detail. However, this footage provided an intriguing set of clues for investigators to follow. I'll now go over the clips, in as much detail as I can - based on what's been publicly released thus far.
The first video clip shows three masked figures observing the house from a distance; near a tree in the backyard. They are seemingly unaware that a security camera had been set up by a neighbor, which was recording them from just feet away.
The video clip begins with a masked figure approaching the tree, and then squatting. This figure has the stature of a slim young man, who is wearing a light-colored jacket, light pants, a hat and mask, and has a book-bag slung over their shoulders. For several minutes, this individual just squats there, observing the house from a distance with what looks like a pistol in their hand.
They are then joined by a second figure, who stands next to them for a moment. This individual is wearing a thicker, light-colored jacket, dark pants, and a dark mask that obscures their features. The two seem to be conversing, with their heads and bodies moving as-if in the middle of a quiet conversation. Moments later, they are joined by a third figure, who is wearing mostly-dark clothing that is hard to make out. This third individual squats near the first as the second figure skulks off, and converses with them as they observe the house from afar.
After about five minutes, the first figure jogs off out-of-frame, while the third figure lingers for a moment, before joining the other two in the darkness.
The second video clip released by investigators is perhaps one of the creepiest clips that I've ever seen, knowing what is about to happen.
This video clip shows two of these masked culprits - most likely the first and second figures from the prior video - slowly approaching the exterior of the house that Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson were inside of. These two masked figures begin to look in windows along the side of the house, watching those inside and (seemingly) observing their movements.
The two seem to be using blind spots around the window to avoid being seen, but the clip ends after about two minutes, as both figures run around the side of the house, presumably as they prepare to invade the home and violently rob those inside.
The third video clip released by police starts with the image of a snowed-over driveway, and likely begins after the shooting has already taken place. A car drives down the road, and about 30 seconds later, a figure emerges from the opposite direction: a backyard near the crime scene.
This is an individual seen in both video clips, the slim figure wearing a light-colored jacket and light pants with a book-bag. He (I assume( is seen jumping over a fence and landing in the snowy driveway, where they linger for a minute or so. Their mask is on top of their head, but the video is too low-definition to make out any of their features.
As they stand in the driveway, they seem to be placing a handgun or other small item into their bag, which is slung around their shoulders. But then, less than a minute later, they turn around and head back the direction that they just came from: over the fence into the backyard. There, they disappear out-of-view, and the video footage just kind-of ends.
All in all, it was less than 10 minutes of video footage, which really didn't reveal much about the killers. However, it gave police an intriguing starting point to base their investigation off of, and police have yet to reveal all of the information they've managed to glean from these video clips.
From the onset of the investigation, police would choose to keep much of their information withheld. This included the identity of the third shooting victim, who would ultimately survive his injuries, but chose to remain anonymous in the press. Police later announced that this figure did not want to speak publicly about the violent ordeal, which they had unfortunately experienced firsthand.
Despite police choosing to keep much of the information in this case pretty well-guarded, selected details were released in January of 2017, when a search warrant was filed by police investigating a specific suspect. This search warrant revealed that police had numerous footprint impressions; including several from the backyard of the home, and even one footprint outlined in blood, which was later cut out of the front door for further processing.
This search warrant also revealed that police had numerous shell casings and bullet slugs from 9 mm handguns, which they were hoping to compare against specific firearms in the future. At the time, they also had a specific suspect in-mind, who lived nearby the crime scene; but this individual would later be ruled out as a suspect due to him having an airtight alibi.
Investigators believe that at least one of the shooting victims was singled out by these unknown culprits; potentially even more than one of the victims, but police would not identify which victim they believed had been targeted. This was deliberate, as police did not want to tip their hand to the culprits, whom they believe had planned out this entire attack well ahead of time.
South Ogden Police Chief Darin Parke revealed that the time period in which the three video clips played out was an extended period of time, and told reporters:
"This was not a random act. There was a specific intent targeted (toward) that home and to those people."
Investigators seem to believe that the scene of the crime may have played a hand in this shooting: the house that Cyle Van Komen lived in with a handful of roommates. As I already explained a bit, this house a bit of a reputation for being a "party house," indicating some connection to light drug use and/or underage alcohol consumption. Chief Parke told reporters that police had been called to the house twice in the past year for noise ordinance violations, and added that the house had a reputation for being a place for people to "drink beer and smoke marijuana." Yet, despite this, he did not believe that there was any gang activity related to the house - nor any drug use beyond alcohol and weed.
To clarify his remarks, Chief Parke insisted that these statements weren't meant to vilify the victims in any which way. About them, he stated:
"I do not believe they were bad people. I'm not trying to disparage their lifestyle or their conduct. [After all] we have people who have been murdered."
Rather, Chief Parke and the South Ogden Police were releasing this information because they wanted anyone with pertinent information to come forward, regardless of the kind of activity they might have been involved in.
"We're not concerned about someone who may have been over there smoking marijuana... I would remind you [that] we are focusing on a homicide and not on other offenses.
"If you smoked weed in that house, that's not the focus here."
Police encouraged everyone in the region to watch the three video clips released to the press, in the hopes of picking up on mannerisms, clothing, or accessories of the three culprits seen watching the property. These individuals numbered three in total, and - like I stated - were hard to make out in the footage, due to it all being recorded in night vision. Additionally, they were all wearing masks - with police explaining that all three were wearing plastic masks, but that at least one was a paintball mask.
Police have supposedly ruled out any of Cyle's roommates, not believing that any of them were responsible. Rather, these three individuals were likely people loosely affiliated with them: friends, other acquaintances, etc. These were people that were likely familiar with their habits, and who likely knew the interior of the house. Perhaps they had been there before during a party, and picked up on some kind of item or drug they wanted.
Investigators have speculated that on the night in-question, these three were likely scoping out the house, trying to make sure that they were targeting the right people. They remain pretty confident that the three gunmen - who shot and killed Cyle Van Komen and his neighbor, Kevin Nelson - knew at least one of their victims ahead-of-time, and were prepared to kill them in pursuit of material gain.
Unfortunately, the investigation into the shooting deaths of Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson quickly languished. The case began to grow cold just months after the shooting, even though police officials insisted that this was never going to become a "cold case," implying that it would be actively investigated until it was solved.
Police did their best to circulate information about the shooting - including the three surveillance videos - but have been afraid to release more detailed information. Doing so, they believe, may damage the integrity of their case, and after so many months of the case remaining unsolved, that's the very last thing they want to do.
Despite receiving hundreds of tips from the public, police have been unable to conjure up any definitive leads. Investigators estimated that - more than a year after the crime - they were still receiving roughly one tip a week, but they wanted to boost those numbers up. They encouraged anyone familiar with the victims or the community to watch the videos, and try to identify the three masked figures seen skulking around the crime scene both before and after the crime.
You can still find those surveillance videos online - several publications have posted them on their websites and on Youtube, and I will be hosting them on the Unresolved website.
If you have any information about this case - even if you believe it is not important - you are encouraged to make contact with either Weber County or South Ogden Police. Weber County Dispatchers can be dialed at (801) 629-8221, and South Ogden detectives can be phoned at (801) 622-2822. You can even submit tips anonymously to South Ogden police through an online portal: just head to southogdencity.com, look for the police tab, and follow a few prompts to get there.
The gap that Cyle and Kevin have left in their lives of their loves ones is felt every holiday, every anniversary... every day, really. They both lived such colorful, vibrant lives, and are missed every day by their friends and family members. Today, almost three years after their tragic loss, these loved ones continue to hold out hope that answers can be found so that other families don't have to endure the same heartache.
As of this episode's recording, the identities of those involved remains unknown, and the stories of Cyle Van Komen and Kevin Nelson remain unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Producers: Maggyjames, Ben Krokum, Robert Janson, Quil Carter, Peggy Belarde, Matthew Brock, Laura Hannan, Astrid Kneier, Evan White, Katherine Vatalaro, Damion Moore, Amy Hampton Miller, Timothy Stratton, Scott Meesey, Steven Wilson, Sara Willemsen, Scott Patzold, Kathy Marie, and Marie Vanglund
Published on June 9th, 2019
Dream Machine - "Radiant"
Acedis - "Illustrations"
Dmitriy Diomores - "Criminal Soul"
Vheissu - "Once, Angel Touched the Ground"
Dream Machine - "Soliloquy"
Murkok - "All Winter in a Day"
Vermos - "Sea In Me"
Other music created & composed by Ailsa Traves