updated 3/20/2008 5:50:35 PM ET 2008-03-20T21:50:35

An Illinois man was charged Thursday with killing a 71-year-old real estate agent whose body was found near a smoldering mattress in a home she was showing him.

James A. Hole, 34, of Brookfield, Ill., was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, arson and burglary in the death of Ann B. Nelson of Cambridge, Wis.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge William Hue set a $1 million bond for Hole and then scheduled a preliminary hearing for April 4. He was to be assigned a public defender.

Nelson was found dead Tuesday night in a smoke-filled room of the home near the town of Oakland, authorities said.

Hole, whom she allegedly had met at the home, was arrested after he was taken in for questioning Wednesday night, said Sgt. Lawrence Lee, a Jefferson County sheriff's detective.

An autopsy concluded Nelson died of smoke inhalation, but she also had head injuries, investigators say. A weapon was recovered, Lee said, declining to be more specific.

Nelson's family contacted authorities after she didn't return home Tuesday evening. Deputies tracked her down to the vacant home in Jefferson County and noticed smoke coming from it when they arrived.

Nelson had three sons, three daughters and 16 grandchildren and was active at church and in the community, said a son, Doug Nelson.

"She was always willing to help. No task was ever too difficult," he said.

'Your safety is primary'
The Wisconsin Realtors Association sent a note to its members informing them that a member was found dead at a vacant listing.

It urged them: "Please do not let your guard down — your safety is primary!"

Barry Luce, an owner of Re/Max Community Realty in nearby Lake Mills, said Nelson had worked for the company for four years. Her death stunned colleagues, he said.

"Everybody is very concerned," he said. "We can't believe something like this would happen in small-town America."

Nelson said on her page of the company's Web site that it was "a dream come true" to live and work in the area.

"Church and community are important aspects in my life, and it is rewarding to be involved in situations to help others who have needs," she said on the site.

Oakland is about 25 miles east of Madison.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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