A former schoolteacher wanted for assault after allegedly coughing on a baby’s face apparently tried to convince SJPD that they had the wrong suspect.
Despite having no alibi and being singled out twice in a photo lineup, Nancy Nordland told police that she was out of state at the time of the attack and was a victim of mistaken identity, according to investigative records newly obtained by San Jose Inside.
San Jose police say that on the evening of June 12, Nordland deliberately hacked on a year-old child in a stroller at a South Side Yogurtland. They say the woman apparently did so after getting upset that the baby’s mother, Mireya Mora, stood closer than the 6-foot distance mandated by pandemic-related public health orders.
“The victim pointed out to the suspect that there was a pink line on the floor indicating where the victim was supposed to stand in order to observe social distancing,” San Jose Police Department Detective Daniel Bowman wrote in a summary of Mora’s account. “The suspect then went to an employee of the store and asked the employee to direct the victim to move away from the suspect.”
An employee reportedly obliged, telling Mora to step back a bit to give the woman more room. Mora did so, she told police—just not enough to the woman’s liking.
“The suspect then approached the victim, took off her mask and coughed three times on the victim’s son’s face,” Bowman recounted about Mora’s interview.
Mora says she immediately raised the canopy of her son’s stroller as the woman proceeded help herself to some frozen yogurt. Then, despite protestations from employees, Mora said the woman left the store without paying.
Det. Bowman asked: would Mora recognize the woman if she saw her again?
“Yes,” Mora replied, per police records.
Would she want to press charges?
“Yes, I do,” Mora reportedly answered.
Minutes after the coughing incident, police reports say the baby’s grandmother flagged down SJPD Officer Miguel Lopez—who was driving a marked patrol car on Great Oaks Parkway—to tell him about what just happened. Lopez said he searched the shopping center for someone who fit the cougher’s description—white, elderly, above-average height, curly blonde ‘do—to no avail.
While SJPD tracked down leads, Mora spread word of the attack in an interview with ABC7. In the local TV news segment, Mora accused the unknown cougher of discrimination, saying the woman directed the attack on her Spanish-speaking family even though white people in the store stood at about roughly the same distance away.
Once the TV report aired and police a short time later issued surveillance footage and a plea for the public’s help identifying the assailant, tips began flooding SJPD phone lines.
On June 22, according to police reports, a local K-12 campus secretary told investigators that “without a doubt,” the suspect is one Nancy Nordland, a resource specialist for the Oak Grove School District with a registered address in Redwood City.
On June 24—a dozen days after the attack and two since the ABC7 report made the case one of public interest—Det. Bowman finally made contact with Nordland. The resulting statement, as documented by Bowman, was full of denials and claims of ignorance.
After explaining the reason for calling, Bowman said Nordland asked for the date of the Yogurtland incident. When he told her June 12, she allegedly claimed she was up in Newberg, Oregon, on that day for a nephew’s graduation, a niece’s baptism and because she lives there part-time. “Before I could ask any more,” Bowman went on to write, “she stated that the Yogurtland had been ‘closed for a long time, since school got out.’ I explained that it was open on June 12.”
When asked if she could come down to the police station to give an official statement, Nordland allegedly demurred, saying she would be up in Oregon until the South Bay school district she works for went back in session.
“She told me again that there was a graduation party, as well as a baptism, that took place in Oregon on the weekend in question,” Bowman wrote. “I asked specifically, ‘So you were in Oregon on Friday the 12th?’ She responded, ‘Yeah, that if that was the Friday, yeah, because that would have been, that would have been, ummm, yeah. So, the party for my nephew is Saturday.’ I said, ‘OK.’ She said, ‘So I’m sorry. I’d have to look up on the calendar to tell you what day is which these days because we’re home all the time.’”
SJPD would have to wait until fall, Nordland told him, according to police reports.
“She asked if she was under arrest for something,” Bowman wrote, “and I said no. She asked what had happened, and I explained that I was investigating an argument that had happened in the Yogurtland, and I had several people who had recognized her. She asked, ‘Do I have a twin walking around somewhere?’ I said I didn’t know.”
Bowman asked if Nordland could put him in touch with anyone who could vouch for her whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime, to which she reportedly replied: “Probably, yeah. But they’re in Oregon, I mean, you know?”
Bowman said he pressed her again, asking if she wanted to provide some kind of alibi.
“You know what?” she replied, per police records. “I’m, uh, I’m kinda getting uncomfortable with this situation because I think this is a false accusation.”
The woman then asked if police needed her sister to go to San Jose to vouch for her and that she was “completely mystified” by Bowman’s inquiry.
“So what, what, what, what, you just need someone to call you” the woman asked, per the police report. “Or you need somebody to swear a statement? Or—I don’t understand. I mean, why would you need somebody to do anything if I’m not under arrest?”
“Because you’re under investigation,” Bowman said he told her.
“Wow,” she replied, per police records.
Bowman told her she could have a family member call him, or she could provide receipts or some other evidence to convince him to move on to another suspect. He apologized if it was indeed a case of mistaken identity, he said, but that if she could prove she was in Oregon at the time of the assault, he could move the investigation in another direction.
“Should I be worried about this?” Nordland reportedly asked.
“I told her that she had nothing to worry about if she was in Oregon at the time of the assault,” Bowman wrote in his official narrative of the call.
Unfortunately for Nordland, employees of Oak Grove School District told Bowman in subsequent interviews that they were almost entirely certain he had the right suspect.
When asked if Nordland looked like the suspect in the surveillance footage, police say the Alex Anderson Elementary School principal replied, “It does, unfortunately.”
The principal—Sarah Kates-March, whose name is redacted from the police documents provided to San Jose Inside—told SJPD that Nordland was not in Oregon on the date of the coughing attack. In fact, the school administrator said, she’d been at a graduation for the San Jose school that day and spent the latter part of that same afternoon cleaning her classroom in preparation for summer break.
About six days after the attack, Kates-March said Nordland dropped off her classroom key with the school secretary, leaving behind a date-stamped text exchange to prove it.
Police further tried to confirm Nordland as the suspect by presenting a photo lineup in which Mora positively identified the Oak Grove educator multiple times.
When police went to the Nordland family’s San Jose address, neighbors reported seeing her at the house within a week of the coughing incident—including once in her garage, fighting with her husband, whom they identified as Karl.
Attempts by San Jose PD to reach Nordland were unsuccessful. As were those by this news organization—both for this story and past updates.
Reached by the Mercury News recently, Nordland’s husband, identified in the report as Todd, told the newspaper that his wife “has been on the internet of things she did not do.” The husband also reportedly told the news outlet that Nordland has fielded death threats “as a consequence” of the public attention. “Shame on you for reporting and investigating and propagating this fake news,” he added, according to the Merc.
According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Nordland remains on the lam, wanted on a single misdemeanor count of assault. Sources with information on the case are asked to relay tips to Det. Bowman at 408.277.4161