Kent man charged with murder after man fatally shot, left in ditch near Auburn

Body of Uso Hale, 39, found in unincorporated King County. His last known address was in Federal Way.

A Kent man is accused of shooting a man at a Federal Way gas station and leaving his body face-down in a ditch a few miles away, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Robert Nelson III, 24, of Kent, was charged with first-degree murder on Dec. 1. He is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and his arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 15 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center.

Nelson is accused of fatally shooting Uso Hale, 39, and leaving his body face-down in a watery ditch in unincorporated King County. Hale’s body was discovered near the 4600 block of S. 352nd Street on Nov. 12 after neighbors called to report an object in the ditch.

An autopsy by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reported Hale had been shot at least seven times and ruled his death a homicide. He had bullet wounds to his left cheek, chin, neck, right thigh and left arm and two wounds on his left torso. Five .45-caliber bullets were removed from Hale’s body, according to charging documents. Hale’s last known address was at a Federal Way apartment complex.

Prosecutors say Nelson allegedly shot Hale in the front seat of his car at a Mobil gas station (32002 Military Road South) when people were present at the gas pumps and inside the store. Later, investigators found a bullet struck and was lodged in one of the gas station windows.

Nelson allegedly fled the parking lot and left Hale’s body in a ditch minutes later, documents state, and took steps to get rid of his car. The .45-caliber gun registered to Nelson has not yet been located.

Nelson’s “willingness to commit such a violent crime in a public place, risking the lives of others present, make clear that he poses a substantial danger to the community,” Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Petersen wrote in the charging documents.

According to the charging documents, a close friend of Hale’s said the day before his death, a man Hale had robbed of $1,500 came looking for him in a dark, four-door vehicle believed to be a black Cadillac. The man came into the residence and “made things right,” documents state. The close friend later identified the man as Nelson, according to investigators.

Interviews with people close to Hale revealed that Hale was allegedly meeting up with that same man to sell him blue pills, about $2,000 worth, on Nov. 11. When Hale got out of a family member’s car at the gas station and into the nearby two-door Audi, the family member reported hearing shots fired. The family member attempted to follow the Audi after it fled, but lost sight of the vehicle as it sped up the hill from Peasley Canyon Road.

Video surveillance footage shows a vehicle stopping near the ditch in unincorporated King County around 4:08 p.m. Nov. 11. The vehicle, believed to be the Audi, seemed to park for about a minute, then drove away, documents state.

A plastic baggy filled with small blue pills and another baggy filled with “blue mush” — presumed to be fentanyl or Oxycodone pills — were found in Hale’s pockets, along with a black cell phone. Detectives also found two copper .45-caliber bullets near Hale’s body in the ditch.

Police used photos of Nelson to link him to the person in the surveillance footage near where the body was dumped. Phone records also show Nelson received a call from Hale around 3:53 p.m. Nov. 11 and about 20 minutes later, his phone records show that his device was in the area where Hale’s body was dumped, documents state.

Nelson was arrested on Nov. 24 while driving a black Cadillac, registered to his grandfather. Both the car and his apartment were searched. Police recovered a 9mm handgun, gun ammunition and a baggie of blue pills from the car.

A magazine full of .45-caliber ammunition, a gun box to a .45-caliber pistol, and boxes of copper .45-caliber ammunition were recovered from Nelson’s apartment in Kent.

Charging documents state that as detectives were searching the Cadillac, “Nelson was upset and asked multiple times why detectives were searching the vehicle.” After informing Nelson that police had a warrant, Nelson allegedly said: “It’s not that vehicle.”

He was taken to the Burien police station for questioning when he requested to speak with his attorney.

Through the King County Sheriff’s Office investigation of the homicide, sheriffs determined that the actual shooting most likely occurred in the parking lot of the gas station or close by, according to Cmdr. Tracy Grossnickle of Federal Way Police.

“Since KCSO has jurisdiction over the entire area, they kept the case and filed charges,” Grossnickle said. “Due to them keeping the investigation and filing charges, it is not going to [be] considered a Federal Way homicide by our Department.”