DRIGGS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - UPDATE 5/10/19 3:15 p.m.: Erik Ohlson has been sentenced for the killing of his pregnant ex-girlfriend on Friday.
Judge Bruce Pickett sentenced Ohlson, 42, to a fixed 25 years for first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jennifer Nalley. Pickett also ordered he serve 10 to 15 years of one count of voluntary manslaughter for the death of her fetus. He ordered both sentences run concurrent with each other. Pickett gave credit for time served already.
Ohlson pleaded guilty to both charges in February.
He has been in custody at the Madison County jail since July 2016.
Ohlson and his defense team, Jim Archibald and James Thomas, asked for the minimum prison time, which is no less than 10 years, have the opportunity to be eligible for parole and credit for time already served.
Several witnesses were in court to give their testimony.
The defenses witnesses were first. Ohlson’s attorneys brought three witnesses to testify; Sgt. Harrison Mitchell Grover, Virginia Ohlson, and Kristin Ohlson.
“I don’t believe he’s been a problem inmate,” Grover, who works at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at the corrections facility, said. “He’s been quiet.”
Ohlson has been held at a corrections facility for almost three years, so Grover said he has interacted with him quite a few times. Grover told the court that Ohlson has had issues over the past few years, like being placed on suicide watch and an altercation with another inmate that he can remember.
“Erik has always been a hard worker,” Virginia Ohlson, Erik’s mother, said. “He’s been a great son, he’s still a great son.”
During her testimony, she was given photographs that included pictures of Erik’s childhood and his last visit to his parents home in Florida. While looking at the pictures she said that these were great times.
Virginia told the court she had been keeping up with stories and articles surrounding Erik’s case.
“Mrs. Nalley referred to him as a monster, and that’s probably what bothered me the most,” Virginia Ohlson said.
Virginia told the court that she had never seen Erik act in a violent way before.
“He’s a gentle person,” Virginia Ohlson said. “He’s not the monster he was depicted as.”
Archibald asked her if she would be able to support him if he were to get parole, to which she replied she could.
“I love my brother very much, he has been an important part of my life,” said Erik’s sister, Kristin Ohlson.
Kristin, who lives in Maine, told the court about her relationship with her brother and that he would tell her about the excitement of having a baby, as well as the ups and downs of his relationship with Nalley.
Kristin said that she had talked with Erik over the phone the night of the offense and knew he had been intoxicated. She mentioned that he has had a problem with alcohol use in the past.
She too told the court that she would be able to support Erik if he were to get parole.
“I don’t want my brother, or anyone, to be defined by the worst things they have done,” Kristin Ohlson said.
The Teton County prosecutor, Billie Siddoway, then called a detective from the Idaho State Police, a Teton County coroner, and Elyse Archer to testify.
The detective is the lead investigator on the case. He was shown pictures of the scene of the crime, evidence and electronic messages from Erik Ohlson and asked that he describe or read them.
In many of the text messages dating back May through July 2016, Ohlson threatened violent actions towards Nalley and the fetus or messaged a friend about doing so.
In an email message on July 4, 2016, from Nalley to Ohlson, she said that she did not want to talk to him and that a “no contact order is coming.”
The court was also shown messages from that same day from Ohlson to a friend. The messages said things like he wishes Nalley were dead and talked about harming and killing her.
That friend messaged back saying to stop contacting Nalley.
Ohlson responded that he was heading to Driggs with a loaded glock. He later text messaged that friend again that he was not leaving the house that night and thanked them for catching him before he did anything “stupid.”
“I was scared for her because a lot of the messages were intense,” Elyse Archer said.
Archer was Nalley’s friend and roller derby teammate. She told the court that Nalley and Ohlson’s relationship started out with a connection, then turned volatile by the end of it. Nalley had told Archer in June 2016 that she was scared of Ohlson.
Archer said that she and Nalley made plans together on July 4, 2016, to go to the courthouse the next day to get a restraining order.
“She was scared,” Archer said. “She was scared for her life and the life of her child.”
Thomas asked Archer how many times she called the police for Nalley. Archer told the court that she had never done so.
A letter from Nalley’s parents was read to the court talking about their daughter’s life and what she has accomplished.
“Cruel and evil” were the words Nancy and Jack Nalley used to describe Ohlson in a letter read to the court.
The court then listened to a victim-impact statement video by Nancy and Jack. They talked more about her daughter’s life.
“This is the most horrible thing imaginably possibly,” said Nancy Nalley.
Nancy talked about the toll her daughter's death has taken on her health. Her doctor told her that her stress had really gone up.
“Our happy past is gone, our happy present is gone, our happy future is gone,” Jack Nalley said.
Jack said that many things remind him of his daughter and each time he cries.
Archibald told the court that Ohlson had always wanted to take responsibility for his crimes. But Archibald said that as his attorney, he could not let a client pled guilty for a crime with the result of the death penalty. When the plea deal came around with Ohlson not having the possibility of facing the death penalty, that is when Ohlson and his team pled guilty.
Archibald told the court that Ohlson and Nalley sent many text messages to each other. He referenced the messages Siddoway brought during the testimony.
He mentions that she was mean to him over text messages too. He said that some of the examples of Ohlson’s threats or telling Nalley to kill herself were after hours of the couple arguing. Archibald said that for every insult he would hurl at her, she would hurl 10 back.
Archibald said that the last few years of Nalley’s life she struggled. He told the court that she had always wanted to be a mother, so when she met Ohlson she knew it was one of her last chances.
Archibald said that she was not happy with her life and wanted to make Ohlson feel bad.
So why not just walk away?
Archibald said that Ohlson wanted to be in the child’s life. Thomas told the court that he wanted to be a father.
“It’s just sad to see,” Archibald said.
The defense team said that prior to this offense, Ohlson had not shown any history of violence, prior to something when he was 20-years-old and an altercation in the corrections facility. None of the women he had previously dated every felt physically threatened by Ohlson, according to Archibald.
Archibald argued that Ohlson is someone who could be rehabilitated and return as a functioning member of society.
In the defense’s sentencing brief, Ohlson has addressed his problem with alcohol and he intends to seek help.
“People who commit these crimes are not in their right minds,” Archibald said.
Archibald said he and his team do not think the request does not match the seriousness of the crime. He called it a “reasonable” one.
Archibald teared up and said he does not mean to upset anyone with this case.
To help Archibald collect his thoughts, Thomas recounted about a time he had dinner with Ohlson and said he remembers thinking, “This was just a normal guy, who did something really bad.”
Thomas admits he got heated during the testimony because he said the state was painting Ohlson out to be someone he was not.
“I think that 10 years will satisfy. I think 10 years is enough,” Thomas said.
Siddoway brought up the text messages from Ohlson to a friend again and mentioned that he would be content with life in prison. These text messages were before Nalley’s death.
Siddoway suggested that Ohlson get a maximum of 15 years for voluntary manslaughter.
Finally, Ohlson addressed the court to express his remorse. He mentioned that being a father was one of the most difficult things in his life, but at the same time, he was grateful. He said during this difficult time he turned to drink.
He brought up what happened the night of the offense and said he does not even know what went on.
“I know I’ve done something that I know I can’t take back,” Ohlson said. “Sorry will never be enough.”
He apologized to friends, family, and anyone affected by Nalley’s death.
Before Judge Bruce Pickett served his sentence to Ohlson, he acknowledged the loss that happened the night of the offense.
Pickett was impressed with the support from his family that either sent in letters or came on Friday to give their testimony.
Pickett addressed Ohlson’s alcohol problems believing it was a factor. He brought up the relationship between Ohlson and Nalley, calling it “toxic.” He said instead of choosing to seek help, Ohlson chose to drink.
Judge Pickett then went through a mental health assessment and shared the doctor’s findings with the court.
Pickett talked about Ohlson’s text messages from July 4, 2016, and how he said he was planning on taking three lives that night.
“Doesn’t matter what was said to you,” Pickett said. “You don’t have the right to take three lives.”
The Teton County Courthouse was packed Thursday as people from around the area came for the two-day sentencing of the Jackson man who pleaded guilty of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Erik Ohlson, 42, pleaded guilty in February to first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jennifer Nalley and one count of manslaughter for the death of her fetus.
Ohlson and his attorneys registered several objections to the presentencing report submitted to the court by investigator Brenda Hammon.
Attorney Jim Archibald said Ohlson objects to the report as a whole because much of the information in it was irrelevant or based on biased information. Archibald mentioned that Ohlson’s interview with Hammon was rushed and many points in the report were not discussed with him.
Ohlson’s attorney’s said that there is also inaccurate information in the presentence report, like his relationship status and what time he left his home the night Nalley was killed.
Continuing his objections to the report, Archibald said that there were “inflammatory statements” from Nalley’s parents against Ohlson. According to Archibald, in the report Nalley’s parents said things like “cruel and evil” and “his temper and rage lies deep in him.” He said that those statements are highly inflammatory, and the court should disregard them.
The Teton prosecuting attorney, Billie Siddoway, argued that these words are pertinent.
In another objection, Archibald brings up Hammon’s recommendation of “anything less than continued incarceration would be unconscionable.” Archibald said that Hammon’s emotions got the best of her while creating the report and this statement should not be included.
Judge Bruce Pickett, said that the court will strike Hammon’s recommendation and the use of non-victim letters from the presentence report. All the other objections presented by Ohlson’s defense will stay in the report.
However, Pickett said those letters may be used in Friday’s sentencing.
The court also discussed the videos being presented in the sentencing. Pickett will allow Nalley’s mother to make her victim statements in the video, but only using her own words. Nalley’s mother may not refer to third-party statements. Pickett said that this was his own discretion.
The court discussed an addendum from May 7. It was about a second mental health assessment, that both the defense and the Siddoway agreed was unnecessary in the report. The court also struck that through the presentence report.
Among those present for the hearing were Nalley’s roller derby team, neighbors and family. As well as Ohlson’s family members.
The sentencing for Ohlson will continue Friday at 9 a.m. at the Teton County Courthouse. The court will hear testimony at that time. Pickett said the defense’s witnesses will be heard first.
Ohlson has been in custody at the Madison County jail since July 2016. He was arrested after Nalley was found shot dead in Teton Valley.