DRIGGS — On Friday, suspected murderer Erik Martin Ohlson sat taking notes as his recorded confession of killing his pregnant girlfriend played for a mostly filled courtroom.
Ohlson sat unshackled during the six-hour hearing, as multiple witnesses testified; including a forensic pathologist who said Ohlson shot his girlfriend in the back, contrary to the Jackson, Wyo. man’s previous account.
Ohlson, 39, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in in the death of Jennifer Nalley, of Driggs, and her unborn child.
The hearing, where Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Lundberg submitted evidence and witness testimony to show there was probable cause for the charges, saw seven witnesses take the stand.
Magistrate Judge Jason Walker found there was probable cause to bind Ohlson over to district court on the two counts of murder. Ohlson has an arraignment hearing Sept. 6.
Lundberg said the prosecution has yet to decide if it will seek the death penalty in this case.
Ohlson’s taped interview with an Idaho State Police detective was played for the court.
On it, Ohlson told detective Matt Wall that he shot Nalley eight or nine times in the chest as she “rushed” him from her cabin near Driggs.
Ohlson’s attorney, Jim Archibald, objected to the recording being played, saying his client was declined his right to have counsel present at the interview. After being read his Miranda rights, Ohlson told Wall he wanted a lawyer. Wall then asked again if Ohlson wanted to say anything before being appointed a lawyer and Ohlson told him he would be interviewed without counsel.
In the recording Ohlson said, “I just, I got crazy … I shot her. I don’t think that was my intention. I just wanted to scare her but she came out the door flying at me.”
A family member discovered Nalley’s body July 5 with multiple gunshot wounds to her back outside the cabin.
Ohlson, the father of Nalley’s unborn child, told officers he consumed alcohol prior to going to the cabin. Ohlson told investigators he knocked on Nalley’s door and, without saying a word, shot her in the chest until his .45-caliber Glock Model 30 ran out of bullets. A standard magazine for that weapon holds 10 rounds.
Ohlson then drove away from the scene and intentionally rammed his vehicle into a power pole in what he called a suicide attempt. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI prior to the body being found.
Ohlson said in the recording that he shot Nalley in the chest. Testimony by forensic pathologist Charles Garrison, who performed the autopsy on Nalley, refuted Ohlson’s version. Garrison said each of the eight bullets entered through Nalley’s back, with the exception of one that entered her forearm. Garrison said two fatal bullets struck Nalley’s heart. The estimated eight- to 10-week-old fetus was not struck by a bullet, but died from lack of blood flow from its parent, Garrison said.
Further testimony from State Police detectives who responded to the scene showed bullet fragments were found embedded in the far wall of the cabin as well as near the entrance. Detectives also discovered two bullet fragments lodged in the deck underneath Nalley’s body.
The fragments are currently being tested to see if they were used in the murder.
Ohlson’s friend of 10 years, Erin Landry, testified that Ohlson sent her text messages where he talked about killing Nalley in the month leading up to the murder. Landry said the statements were not made with true conviction, and she did not feel Nalley’s life was in danger.
One of the text messages from Ohlson to Landry said he was “deadly serious” about killing Nalley. He told Landry he “was headed to Driggs with a Glock loaded with hollow points” and he wanted to watch as she “begged for her life.”
Landry said Ohlson was just frustrated and didn’t mean any of the threats.
Ohlson said in the recorded interview that he had made statements to friends about killing Nalley.
“You may say things like ‘I’m going to kill that girl,’ but you don’t mean it,” Ohlson said.
Ohlson told Wall he and Nalley often verbally fought, but never physically. Each were “emotionally destructive” to one another, Ohlson told Wall. He told Wall that Nalley had been off her anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication after she found out she was pregnant. Ohlson said the lack of medication negatively affected Nalley’s behavior toward him.
“When your pet name goes from sweetheart and dandy to loser and dumb (expletive), that’s an example right there,” Ohlson said in the recording.
Ohlson told Wall he was excited to be a dad.
Wall said the case remains under investigation as detectives go through Nalley and Ohlson’s cell phones.
Walker said the prosecution provided enough evidence to find probable cause on both counts, and that the text messages presented showed forethought in the murder.
“Notably, the wounds inflicted in the back of Nalley appear different from Mr. Ohlson’s statements, two of which appear to have happened after Nalley was on the ground as two bullets were found lodged in the deck,” Walker said.
Murder carries the death penalty, or is otherwise punishable by life in prison.
Reporter Tom Holm can be reached at 542-6746