Posted: Apr 27, 2012 3:53 PM by KXLF Media Center with Jamie Leary reporting
Updated: Apr 27, 2012 4:03 PM
A woman who was kidnapped while running near Big Sky in 1984 then chained to a tree and shot testified at a parole hearing today for one of the men involved.
Kari Swenson took the stand, telling the Montana Parole Board that she was shocked to be in the same room as Don Nichols.
"To have to come here and go through the emotions every five years and deal with Don Nichols and now Dan Nichols in the news...My poor family and friends go through it just as much as me, and I think they have a harder time than I do because I've dealt with it better I think than my family and friends. I didn't spend a lot of time with them in the woods but it was enough time for me to know that both of them, and I'm really sorry Dan is out, both of them are dangerous to everybody and anybody they run into," Swenson said.
"I really feel that any.... I mean, huge risk with release at any time with him (Don), no matter how old he is, he obviously stays in great shape by looking at him. In fact I'm very shocked and very upset that I had to see him today; that has never happened before. We've always come to the board and presented our case and I have never had to see him. And, to me, I'm shocked that the media is here today. I'm shocked that he came in here with me in the room, that really, really victimized me all over again and I'm very angry and I'm sure you understand that. If I come back in five years and he's still alive I do not want to see him. Now I'm going to have nightmares all over again because I had to see that man," she continued.
Former Gallatin County Sheriff John Onstad also addressed the board. Here is his statement:
"My name is John Onstad. Excuse me I get emotional at times like this. I was the sheriff of Gallatin County at the time of Don Nichols crime spree. I was at the crime scene where Alan Goldstein was killed, where Kari was shot. I was also there at the time of his capture and I want to tell you about him. I also was responsible for his care at the Gallatin County jail and I saw him many times in our exercise yard I had short conversations with him and I believe I know quite about how he was then and how I think he is now. He was a cold calculating anti-social individual and to kind of explain how I mean that he carried as he backpacked around the woods, he carried a piece of dog chain a length of dog chain. He didn't have a dog but he had a purpose and when he got a hold of Kari, he chained her up and he took up the steep mountain side and when he got her where he was going, he chained her to a tree and later on he wrote ‘Well, it was just a small chain'. I submit to you the vehicle to take a person's liberty and freedom is not a small chain. He also expressed that he figured that this women was a hippie girl, that she wouldn't have community ties wouldn't have family; somebody that within a few days would choose to stay with them. Well by nightfall on the first day, there was an airplane in the air, her father was searching, there were people from the guest ranch where she worked, they were searching. Calls into the night of people searching. It was very obvious at that point she was not this individual that no one cared about. There was a great deal, a great number of people that cared about her. He could have cut her loose then and cut his losses, but that was not what Don chose to do. So the next morning, as Alan Goldstein and Jim Schwalbe came down into this camp area and they really didn't even get into the camp, Don raised his rifle quickly but carefully and he shot Alan in the head. He shot him in the face. Almost simultaneously Kari was shot. Jim Schwalbe came to Kari's aid and then fled for his life and it was very lucky that he got out of there alive. And he left a small backpack by Kari and he fled over a little rise and got outta sight. At that point we see the real humanity of Don because he took the chain off of Kari, and then he grabbed the bottom end of the sleeping bag that she was in and he flopped her out on the ground like a fish out of a creel, bleeding, cold, hurt very seriously, shot through the top of the lung; gathered his few things and left her to die. And it was through the things that she did with that small backpack that Jim Schwalbe left there that we were able to find her. Don is a cold calculating anti-social individual. I think he demonstrated that full-well. And if there was ever a reason for box 7 Deer Lodge (address), it's people like him. I thank you."
Don Nichols entered the room before the hearing on Friday morning, called the board Fascists and walked out. His parole was denied.
Nichols, 81, is serving an 85-year prison sentence. He will be eligible for parole again in five years.
In 1984, Nichols and his son, Dan Nichols, ambushed and kidnapped Kari Swenson, a world class athlete who was 22 years old at the time, while she was running in the mountains in Big Sky. They forced her into the woods and chained her to a tree. When rescuers arrived, Dan Nichols shot Swenson. Don Nichols shot and killed Alan Goldstein who was trying to rescue Swenson. The Nichols then fled into the mountains and were caught five months later.