ST. CLOUD – You don’t want to meet Bill Nelson in a dark alley.
The St. Cloud man said he hears that a lot. It makes him laugh: He’s actually very nice.
Nelson’s résumé could be confused with oa fictional television drama. He works as a private investigator, bounty hunter and surveillance agent for the Stearns County Repeat Felony Domestic Violence Court. He also owns St. Cloud Soo Bahk Do martial arts studio.
“I work 90 hours a week,” Nelson said. “But I say I’m retired because I love what I’m doing.”
Nelson moved to St. Cloud from the Twin Cities in the late 1970s to go to school to become a jeweler. St. Cloud State University had a good art program, he said.
At the time, he was training in Soo Bahk Do, a Korean martial art. He also volunteered for Woman House shelter, which is now Anna Marie’s Alliance.
He started speaking nationally about rape prevention. Nelson wrote the book “Your Weapon Within: How to Lower the Risk of Sexual Assault” in 1993. He has also written shorter books about healthy dating, sexism and gender stereotypes and how they can lead to violence against women, as well as about personal observation and assessment, and children and safety.
“This is nothing about choke holds and breaking boards,” Nelson told the St. Cloud Times. “This is about how men treat women.”
Trusting his instincts
All of his skills play into his different businesses. Nelson is a seventh-degree black belt in Soo Bahk Do. He has learned over the years to trust his instincts.
He has one motto when bounty hunting: Everybody is somewhere. A lot of people think they can run. But they are somewhere. He just has to find them.
Nelson networks and has a wide circle of friends. When he goes out, people ask if he’s working. He never admits if he’s watching someone.
He works for Stearns County full time. He monitors about 40 men in the domestic violence court program. The men are subject to curfews and random drug and alcohol tests. They must call the whereabouts line if they are leaving home.
The men are under surveillance 24 hours. Nelson can check up on them anytime. He’s been known to knock on doors at 3 a.m.
“If I call them, and they don’t call me within 10 minutes, they can go to jail,” Nelson said.
Authority and ability
Janelle Kendall, a Stearns County attorney, works closely with Nelson. She calls him “the rock star.”
“He has the authority and ability to enforce the court’s order,” Kendall said. “Bill’s watching them, and they know it.”
The offenders know that if they mess with Nelson, they are messing with the judge’s order.
“He makes my job effective,” Kendall said. “This impacts these guys. He treats them with respect, but he carries out the orders.”
Nelson works for bond companies. If someone misses court, and the bond company is on the hook for the money, he looks for the person.
If he brings in the person, Nelson gets paid.
Safety is a primary concern. He uses everything from a bulletproof vest to a Taser when working. But Nelson avoids physical confrontations if at all possible.
“You don’t solve conflict by beating the hell out of people,” Nelson said. “You have to move smart. Treat people respectfully. By coming on strong, that doesn’t usually work.”