Catherine E. Nelson

Nelson, circa 2002; Nelson and Russell's pickup truck; Brian Ferry, circa 2015

  • Missing Since 02/02/2002
  • Missing From Phoenix, Arizona
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 02/17/1959 (65)
  • Age 42 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6 - 5'8, 160 - 170 pounds
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Newer model red Ford SVT Lightning F-150 pickup truck with the Arizona license plate number 274-HBF (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue/green eyes. Nelson's ears are pierced. Her nickname is Cathy.

Details of Disappearance

Nelson and her fiance, Charles Russell, resided in the 7000 block of North 28th Drive in Phoenix, Arizona in early 2002. Russell told a friend that he and Nelson planned to drive to Tucson, Arizona on February 2, 2002 to look at an advertised 2002 Ducati motorcycle.

Russell and Nelson were very interested in vintage cars and motorcycles, and they planned to bring a cashier's check with them to make the purchase. They have never been heard from again. Their loved ones reported them as missing persons on February 4, when they both failed to report for work as scheduled. Nelson was employed as an appraiser at the Maricopa County Assessor's Office in 2002.

Nelson and Russell were traveling in their newer model red Ford SVT Lightning F-150 pickup truck with the Arizona license plate number 274-HBF at the time of their disappearances. A photo of the vehicle is posted with this case summary.

The truck was discovered abandoned in the parking lot of Santa Cruz Catholic Church in Tucson on February 7, 2002. Russell's checkbook was located inside the glove compartment. There was no indication of a struggle at the scene and no additional evidence was found inside the vehicle.

Nelson and Russell's family members told authorities that it is uncharacteristic of them to leave without warning. They left their dog unattended inside their house, as they planned to return home during the evening of February 2. Their relatives stated that Nelson and Russell would have placed their pet in a kennel if they expected to stay away for an extended period of time. They are described as having a very stable and loving relationship.

Investigators determined that only two Ducati motorcycles were delivered to Arizona prior to the couple's disappearance. They believe the advertisement was a ruse and theorized Nelson and Russell may have been lured to Tucson for the purposes of robbery. No witnesses have come forward to state that the couple was seen in Tucson on February 2.

In January 2015, Brian Ferry was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Russell and Nelson's disappearances. A photo of Ferry is posted with this case summary. He has a prior criminal record; he served three and a half years for fraud and auto theft. Authorities stated forensic evidence had helped lead to an arrest.

Ferry was tried for the murders in early 2018, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. He was tried a second time later that year and convicted of the murders in May 2018. In June, he was found dead in his cell; his death was ruled a suicide.

Foul play is suspected in Nelson and Russell's disappearances due to the circumstances involved.

Investigating Agency

  • Phoenix Police Department 602-261-8042
  • Tucson Police Department 520-791-4487

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated June 18, 2018; details of disappearance updated.