Trial begins over murder of man found in ditch

Robert Nelson III is accused of killing Uso Hale in November 2021 on the outskirts of Federal Way.

Two and half years after the killing of Uso Hale, alleged perpetrator Robert Nelson III is now seeing the courtroom before a jury.

On June 25, King County Prosecuting Attorney Logan Bryant began his opening statements in the case against the now 27-year-old Nelson for premeditated murder in the first degree for the killing of 39-year-old Hale.

According to Nelson’s counsel, the general nature of his defense is self-defense. Nelson’s counsel chose not to deliver their opening statements until a later date after the prosecution put forward its case.

In his opening statement to the jury, Bryant outlined what he believes was what happened in the killing of Hale. Bryant said that in the late afternoon of Nov. 11, 2021, Nelson pulled out his .45 caliber pistol and shot Hale six times, hitting his chest, face, thigh and back.

Bryant said that, allegedly, Nelson did this while he was sitting in the front seat, and Hale was sitting in the passenger seat of Nelson’s light grey sedan coupe. Bryant said the killing occurred at the Exxon Mobil gas station at 32002 Military Road South, Auburn. This area is also sometimes known as East Federal Way.

Bryant said following the shooting, Nelson drove about five minutes away to a residential area and dumped his body in a ditch. Charging documents state that Hale’s body was found the day after the killing just east of the 4600 block of South 352nd Street in unincorporated King County.

Bryant said the state would prove its case through the testimony of witnesses, surveillance video, still shots, photos, records from the Department of Licensing, records from cellphones and physical items. He said this evidence would show that Nelson unlawfully killed Hale, attempted to flee accountability, and did so with premeditation.

“When you scrutinize his behavior before the killing, during the killing, and after, you will conclude that there is no lawful justification,” Bryant said.

Bryant went on to describe how Hale’s body was found by a neighborhood resident who then called a neighbor for help, and subsequently, law enforcement arrived at the scene. A neighborhood resident’s surveillance camera filmed a light grey sedan, like Nelson’s vehicle, driving past the home so only the brake lights could be seen on camera, putting the car in park, and then leaving the area about 60 seconds later.

Bryant then said that call records showed Nelson’s phone and Hale’s phone together at the Exxon Mobil gas station, and the phones were again tracked as together in the general area where Hale’s body was found at the same time that the surveillance footage showed the light grey sedan stopping there.

In addition to the call records, surveillance from the gas station shows Hale exiting his friend’s vehicle and walking toward something with a purpose, and then he is never seen again alive. Through investigation, law enforcement found that Nelson was registered as the owner of a light grey sedan coupe, an Audi A5, which matches the car seen stopping where Hale’s body was dumped.

Following an investigation, Nelson was also found to be the owner of a black Cadillac, and a warrant was put out for Nelson’s arrest. Bryant said the .45 caliber weapon used to shoot Hale was never located, and neither was the light grey Audi A5 registered to Nelson.

“Now, Mr. Nelson is detained by KCSO [King County Sheriff’s Office], and he is upset,” Bryant said. “And he asked multiple times to detectives, ‘Why are they searching my car? They can’t just search my car,’ The detectives informed him, ‘Well, we have a search warrant to do so,’ and his response is, ‘Well, it’s not that car.’ Because it’s not the black Cadillac, it’s the Audi.”

Bryant said following Nelson’s arrest, they searched his apartment and found a box for a .45 caliber Sig Sauer handgun and a magazine for a .45 caliber Sig Sauer, but they never found his .45 caliber Sig Sauer registered to him.

Bryant ended his opening statement by rehashing details of the crime, adding that he asks that the jury find Nelson guilty.

“What the evidence shows is that Mr. Nelson pulled out his Sig .45 caliber and shot Uso six times, at least, in his car. And when he killed Uso, he drove five to six minutes away and dumped his body off in a ditch in a residential area,” Bryant said. “At the end of this trial, you will have all the evidence you need. You will have all the evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Nelson committed the crime of murder in the first degree, and at the end of this trial, I will ask that you return a guilty burden.”

Dr. Micheline Lubin, who performed the autopsy on Hale’s body, could not say for certain how long Hale lived after being shot, but she said it was long enough for about a liter and a half of blood to fill his right lung before the injuries proved fatal. Additionally, Dr. Lubin detailed how multiple bullets were found in Hale’s body during the autopsy, but the fatal gunshot wound was to his right chest cavity, which filled his right lung with blood.

Bryant asked Dr. Lubin if she could tell how many bullets were fired by the number of wounds Hale’s body sustained, and she responded by saying that Hale had a total of 11 gunshot wounds on his body. Additionally, Dr. Lubin said she found the cause of death for Hale to be multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death to be a homicide.

The Mirror will update this case as further developments arise.

The bullet recovered from Hale’s body found in his right chest cavity. Photo By Joshua Solorzano/The Mirror

The bullet recovered from Hale’s body found in his right chest cavity. Photo By Joshua Solorzano/The Mirror