DEER LODGE, Mont. - Montana officials on Friday rejected parole for a notorious "mountain man" who abducted a world-class athlete in 1984 to keep as a wife for his son, and then shot her and left her to die during a rescue attempt.
The state Board of Pardons and Parole held its third parole hearing for Don Nichols as federal authorities search for his son Dan, accused this month of new drug and gun crimes. During his 20-minute hearing, Nichols, 81, expressed contempt for the board.
"I don't think you have the courage to stand up to the media no matter what I say," Nichols said in his only statement before abruptly walking out with his prison escort.
The hearing included emotional testimony from kidnapping victim Kari Swenson, her husband, and her father, plus testimony from former and current law enforcement officials. Board members then huddled for a few seconds before denying Nichols' parole.
The father-son duo made international headlines three decades ago when they abducted Swenson, a world-class biathlete, while she was on a training run in the mountains above the resort town of Big Sky. They eluded police for five months after shooting her and killing a would-be rescuer, Alan Goldstein.
The men, who had lived for long stretches in the mountains by poaching game and eating from makeshift gardens, evaded the manhunt by living in the remote wilderness northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Their habits prompted authorities to give them the "mountain man" moniker they embraced.
Swenson, despite diminished lung capacity from the gunshot wound, went on to compete at a high level. The Bozeman veterinarian wrote in a letter to a Montana newspaper opposing parole that Nichols could again pair up with his son and harm others.
Swenson testified she was upset she had to see Nichols, saying: "Now I'm going to have nightmares all over again." Even though Nichols was denied parole, a day is taken off his 85-year sentence for each day he exhibits good behavior. At that rate, Nichols would be released April 16, 2030, when he would be 99.
The elder Nichols has blamed others - including Swenson - for the crime by saying they were in the wrong place. In an apparent effort to minimize the crime in lengthy journals and manuscripts written shortly afterward, he said they bound Swenson with only a "lightweight" chain.