Couple sent to jail for taking girls to Mexico as part of Y2K cult

Abilene Reporter-News/October 14, 2000

A couple who took two Lake Jackson teen-age girls to the Mexican wilderness as part of a reported millennium cult were sentenced to jail time Thursday after accepting plea bargains.

Tara Burmeister Nelson, 23, was not given jail time as part of the plea agreement, but was sentenced to six months behind bars after an outburst in court.

Her husband, James Nelson, 29, was sentenced to a year in jail. He serve only 241 days because of credit earned for the 124 days he was jailed before posting bond.

Tara Nelson pleaded guilty to two counts of harboring a runaway and pleaded no contest to two counts of enticing a child. James Nelson pleaded no contest to the same charges, The Facts newspaper reported Friday.

The Nelsons were accused of taking Harmony Olachia and Nicole Conrad, then Brazoswood High School freshmen, on Feb. 8, 1999. The teens left notes telling their parents they had been called by God to do missionary work.

The parents believed they went to join a doomsday, Y2K or religious cult. The girls returned home more than a month after their disappearance, saying they had suffered through "five weeks of hell." They recounted living in a cave, eating animals the adults killed to survive, drinking water from streams and going without food for days at a time.

Tara Nelson was given jail time for disobeying Judge James Blackstock's order to remain quiet after Harmony's mother, Carol Ann Olachia, made a lengthy victim's impact statement.

"Tara, I think you're a misguided individual. When you entered into this, you were possibly misguided and didn't understand the gravity of what you were doing," Olachia said. "You're no friend of mine, Tara, and you're no friend of Harmony."

As Olachia was leaving, Nelson said, "You lied," and, "It's not over." Olachia said her daughter, who now lives in another state, has nightmares from what she experienced in Mexico, including stabbing a horse in the heart to put it out of its misery after it had been wounded with an arrow by the adults who were trying to kill it for food.

The Nelsons have disagreed with much of the girls' account of what happened that month, including the fact that they ate horse meat.

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