A Wilson Times Co. publication · Serving Southern Nash County Since 1947

Restraining order filed against state Senate hopeful

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MIDDLESEX — A state Senate candidate says a restraining order his estranged wife filed against him means he’s just another unjustly accused male victim of the #MeToo movement.

Retired Air Force Col. Dennis Nielsen is running in the Republican primary for N.C. Senate District 11, which includes all of Nash County and a portion of Johnston County.

Dennis Nielsen’s wife Karen Nielsen filed a domestic violence protective order this week. The court order bars Dennis Nielsen from going to his home or anywhere near his wife.

Dennis Nielsen is accused of abuse, harassment and inflicting financial servitude, according to statements made by his wife in her complaint.

Johnston County Deputy Clerk of Court Sherry Augustine signed the ex parte restraining order on Monday. The order is temporary. A judge will decide whether to extend it at an upcoming hearing.

Dennis Nielsen provided the court documents to the newspaper, saying the paperwork is proof any woman can say whatever she wants and officials will now automatically believe her.

“I know this is not going to help me, but people need to know what can happen,” Dennis Nielsen said.

Gaining momentum in recent years, #MeToo involves women taking a stand against harassment and violence by Hollywood moguls, politicians and corporate leaders. A backlash has taken shape in which men accused of such actions claim they’re victims of false or trumped-up charges.

Dennis Nielsen compared himself to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced groping accusations during his 2018 confirmation hearings.

“He’s notorious for taking things out of context,” Karen Nielsen said of her husband. She said he turned the paperwork over to the newspaper just to embarrass her as he once promised.


The couple married in June 2018 after knowing each other for three years. They met when she was in his gun store shopping for a firearm.

Dennis Nielsen is 71. Karen Nielsen is 50, according to court records.

“Some of these females like to find a gentleman and have more money,” Dennis Nielsen said.

Karen Nielsen said that was a joke because her husband doesn’t have any real money.

Staying with friends, Dennis Nielsen said he hasn’t been home since being served with the court order. He also said he had to close his gun store because he’s not allowed to be in possession of firearms while the order is in effect.


Dennis Nielsen said such ex parte court orders like the one barring him from seeing his wife are meant for emergency situations when someone gets hit in the face and runs down to the courthouse to file papers, not for someone to wait months before taking action.

Karen Nielsen alleges physical abuse occurred in July. She states her husband bruised her.

“He pushed me, causing me to fall down the stairs and hit my head,” Karen Nielsen wrote.

Dennis Nielsen said his wife hasn’t provided proof of abuse and hasn’t shown her alleged bruises to anyone in authority.


Karen Nielsen claims her husband often took her cellphone and car keys.

“He constantly takes plates off our personal vehicles to control when and where I go and what if anything I can drive,” Karen Nielsen states in her complaint.

Dennis Nielsen claims his wife kept taking vehicles that belong to his car dealership.

“She wouldn’t stop taking cars, so I had her charged,” Dennis Nielsen said.

Karen Nielsen has a court date next month on a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, according to the state’s online court calendar.

The charge shows what a master manipulator her husband is, Karen Nielsen said.

“He says he always wins. He never loses and one way or another, he will get what he wants. He says they taught him that in military war college,” Karen Nielsen states in her complaint.


Karen Nielsen states her husband has threatened to file charges against her, and then will only drop those charges when she sleeps with him.

“He tells me what he wants to see me do to other men,” Karen Nielsen wrote. “He harasses me to sleep in the ‘marital bed’ after he files bed and board.”

Dennis Nielsen filed for a bed and board divorce in December, according to court records.

Under North Carolina law, a bed and board divorce is a legal separation on the grounds of alleged abandonment or adultery. This type of divorce doesn’t end a marriage, but affects a spouse’s right in regard to estates.

Dennis Nielsen told the newspaper he used the divorce case to gain subpoena power. He filed a subpoena to learn the dates and times his wife was at a mutual male friend’s home.

She said she went there seeking shelter from her husband. He said she is stepping out on him.

“She’s at his house until 4 a.m..” Dennis Nielsen said. “What does that mean? He’s a single guy. A bachelor.”

The friend told the newspaper he didn’t want to get involved.


“He’s done good things,” Karen Nielsen said of her husband. “That’s what attracted me to him. He presents himself as a man of character with a distinguished career.”

An Iowa native, Dennis Nielsen made national news in 1989 for helping to rescue passengers of United Airlines Flight 232, which crashed in Sioux City.

Karen Nielsen said her husband told her if she would just change two or three things about herself, he wouldn’t have to put her through so much trouble.

Dennis Nielsen called his wife’s detailed 12-page complaint disjointed and incoherent. He said the accusations are false, but admitted everything has a basis in truth.


Upon retiring from the Air National Guard, Dennis Nielsen moved to the Middlesex area in 2002 — his home has a Middlesex address but is located in rural Johnston County.

He ran several unsuccessful political campaigns in North Carolina. Dennis Nielsen ran as a Republican for state Senate in 2004 and state House in 2006. He ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 2008.

His platforms included support of the Second Amendment, strict immigration laws and the removal of vehicle inspection requirements, according to his campaign websites.

Dennis Nielsen faces state Rep Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, and Johnston County Commissioner Patrick Harris in the Republican state Senate primary.

The winner will face the Democratic primary winner, either Smithfield lawyer Allen Wellons, a former three-term state senator, or Albert Pacer, who lost consecutive general elections for the seat in 2016 and 2018.

If elected, Dennis Nielsen will submit legislation providing protections against #MeToo-type allegations, he said.