Jackson, Wyo., resident Erik Ohlson pled guilty to murder in front of Judge Bruce Pickett on Thursday at the Madison County Courthouse at 4:30 p.m.
In front of mostly law enforcement officials, Ohlson pled guilty to felony first-degree murder of Driggs resident Jennifer Nalley and to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter of the unborn baby Nalley was carrying.
A plea agreement between the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office and court-appointed defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas took the death penalty off the table and changed the charges against Ohlson, amending the two counts of murder to one count of murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter.
The case has been working its way through the court system since Ohlson was arrested in July 2016 in Driggs. The case was handed off to Teton County Prosecutor Billie Siddoway after former prosecutor Kathy Spitzer lost a re-election bid in 2017. The case has cost the county more than $362,000 to date.
According to the Teton County Clerk Kim Keeley, the Capital Crimes Defense Fund paid $223,070 of the total cost to the county, leaving $141,487 in actual expenses to the county. The bulk of those expenses were for the second public defender for Ohlson.
”Now that the case has converted to non-capital, the CCDF will not pay for anymore expenses,” Keeley wrote in an email to the Teton Valley News. “The bulk of the trial costs would have been paid by the CCDF, with the exception of the jury wages, budgeted at $23,000, but the county is now on the hook for both public defenders, in addition to the costs of the hearings.”
The defense will submit a motion to the judge this coming week requesting approval of costs for the sentencing hearing.
Siddoway said after court last week that she will seek life in prison for Ohlson. She declined further comment, only to say that her office still had a lot of work ahead in order to finish out the case.
For Nancy Nalley, Jennifer’s mother, the guilty plea brings little relief to the daily pain she endures.
“We’re not happy,” Nalley said of the family’s overall grief. “I just want him away from where he can hurt people. I know Billie has worked hard on this and I appreciate the effort she has put into. I am permanently broken hearted.”
Ohlson was arrested in July 2016 after he crashed his truck into an electrical pole on 2500 South, just three miles from Jennifer Nalley’s cabin in Driggs where she lay dead from eight gun shot wounds suffered that same night, according to the Teton County Coroner’s report. Ohlson was arrested for a DUI and later confessed to killing Nalley. However, his confession was thrown out after the court determined that the Idaho State Police failed to provide legal counsel to Ohlson during the interrogation.
Ohlson is scheduled for sentencing by the judge on May 9 and 10 in Teton County.
“Prison for life is as good as anything. He’s got to go away,” said Nalley.
Nalley said she assumed that guilty plea was borne from a visit from Ohlson’s mother earlier this month. Judge Pickett granted Ohlson’s mother, Virginia, two visits to the Madison County Jail.
“A mother’s love for your child, no matter what the situation, (a mother) would rather see your child alive than dead,” said Nalley of her assumption of Ohlson’s conversation with his mother. “It’s a shame that he ruined their lives and our lives.”
Attempts to reach Ohlson’s defense attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.