America’s Deadliest Killer

s a little girl, Pearl Nelson would listen to stories her uncle would tell about the mother she never knew—how despite a troubled life of prostitution and drug abuse, Audrey Nelson delighted in buying presents for her baby girl, including a lamp that lit up their room with dragonflies. Left in the care of relatives by the time she was about 2, Pearl was 13 when her mom came back for her. “She turned her life around, and she was ready to be a mom again,” says Pearl. But on the 1989 summer day of their planned reunion in Mountain View, Calif., Audrey was a no-show. Her body was discovered several weeks later in a dumpster in Los Angeles. “Imagine when she doesn’t come,” Pearl says. “Every night I see her mother again—staring up from among other chilling sketches by a confessed serial killer. “I could tell right away which one was her,” says Pearl, now 43 and a mom herself. “I could look at 90 pictures and pick her out in a second.”

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