Kari Swenson Case in the News

I am being overrun with work stuff, so I am changing my posting schedule to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (instead of the previous 4 days per week).

Anyway, for today's installment of Missing Person Monday, I wanted to revisit a missing persons case that was solved. The victim, Kari Swenson, was kidnapped while trail running and later shot and left for dead.  Her survival story is nothing short of inspiring.

Her abductors were captured and convicted.  One was released in the early 1990s.  The other kidnapper, still imprisoned, is in the news.

Last year, I covered the Kari Swenson story extensively in a series of posts which can be viewed at the link here.

In July of 1984, then 22-year old Swenson was trail running near Big Sky, Montana. She was a world-class biathlete and was vying for a spot on the United States team that would compete in the World Biathlon Championship.

She was alone and on a break from her job at a local lodge.

Unexpectedly, she was confronted by two armed men, Don and Dan Nichols.

The father and son Nichols thought of themselves as "mountain men" and had been living in the heavily wooded and mountainous area there for almost a year.

The Nichols had decided to abduct young Kari that day--hoping that she would eventually become the wife of Dan and that they could start a family living in the wilderness.

To summarize the story, Kari was struck in the face by the older man when she tried to resist, and then immediately restrained with chains.  The group spent  the day walking deeper into the wilderness, and she was chained in a seated position to a tree at night; while the men slept.

Inadvertently the next morning, two volunteer searchers from the lodge where Kari worked wandered into the Nichols camp.  The search teams were expecting to find that Kari had fallen ill or had been attacked by a wild animal and was in need of medical aid--they had no idea that she had been kidnapped.

Quickly, the situation escalated.

In the commotion, Dan Nichols inadvertently shot Kari in the chest with his gun.

The father, Don Nichols, shot and killed one of the searchers. The other searcher was able to flee the camp and run for help.

While Kari was lying on the ground gasping for air and bleeding, Dan and Don Nichols packed their gear and fled the area.  Leaving the young victim to die with a life-threating wound.

In a testament of her strength and will to live, she remained alive for hours until authorities arrived.

After months of grueling medical treatment and determination, she able to compete in biathlons again--and was a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. relay team at the world championships in Chamonix, France.


Fast forward to this past weeked, when the AP is running stories like this one about how convicted kidnapper and murderer Don Nichols will go before a parole board this month and make an appeal for his release.

He is currently serving an 85-year prison term for his crimes.

HELENA, Mont. — A notorious "mountain man," who abducted a world-class athlete in 1984 to keep as a wife for his son, comes up for parole on April 27...

The elder Nichols has had a good track record in prison, where he has worked on the yard crew, and over the years has reportedly become a bit more apologetic for kidnapping Swenson...

Wow, "a bit more apologetic"?

Now that is convincing.

If one reads Mr. Nichols' "manifesto" about the incident he blames anyone and everyone involved in Kari's kidnapping--everyone but himself that is.

Mr. Nichols even points a finger at his victim for the violent crime so many years ago--that she was only chained lightly, was treated humanely, never was hit, and should have just done what she was told.

Mr. Nichols should be glad that I am not on his parole board.

I think the safety of our society is being preserved with this "mountain man" imprisoned--he murdered one man and tried his best to kill a young athlete.

"A bit more apologetic", eh?

I say let him out.

Yes, let him out after he FINISHES HIS FULL 85 YEARS, and is what, like 130+ years old?

Makes sense to me.


JJ.in.Phila said...

I've heard a lot of that before, in other cases.

Sarah Pearson said...

It angers me that the sentence criminals are given is not the sentence they serve. In England, the sentences always seem pretty light anyway, but then to know that at least a third of that is going to be knocked off - it must be so frustrating for the police who catch them.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Makes perfect sense to me too. Clearly this person is not right in the head and deserves to pay out his full sentence- then we can talk :)

messymimi said...

Some crimes should simply not come up for parole. This is one.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah the nut case should remain in jail, a little more apologetic is like saying you're a little less full of crap, doesn't make a difference.

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

I remember this tv movie! But I didn't remember that we shared a last name.

Blond Duck said...

I think 3 days a week is a great balance!

This makes me want to go to law school.

Momma Fargo said...

Kari Swenson is an inspiration and brave soul. I remember her story. As to the bozos in jail...they can stay there...and apologize "a bit" every day...from the inside.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Go get 'em, SD! Kari deserves as much!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Honestly there are men behind bars that are more deserving of a second chance than this dude. I hope that the parole board comes to the correct decision.

Brian Miller said...

makes sense to me as well...unless he can prove himself innocent, but then that is not happening right...smiles.

JoDee Luna said...

What a shocking and yet amazing story. I'm so happy to hear that she survived.

Jax said...

Omg, what a bunch of whack jobs. That's an understatement. Chained to seating position at night?? Wow...I'm glad that she was able to make it out ok. That's a miracle in itself.

As for 85 years? Yep, that sounds PERFECT.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

He sounds like a nut! Sexist people make me sooo angry!

This woman on the other hand sounds amazing. How neat she was able to make something of herself even after going through so much.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Kari sure must have been an inspiration. These criminals should be given a life imprisonment.

Maxi said...

You have my agreement, Slam. Let this sicko out, after he serves the full sentence.

Having seen this story twice, Kari Swenson is an inspiration to all.

Blessings - Maxi

Lydia Kang said...

Good for you for making your schedule work for you. :)

What a horrible story, and what a testament to that woman's strength that she went on to be a winner.

Blond Duck said...

Happy Tuesday!

Bob G. said...

If there ever were poster children for bringing BACK the death pemnalty...these two are IT!

Good to hear Kari recovered, but the scars will be there nonetheless.
How many other "Karis" never even get the chance she did?

And still we ONLY incarcerate and never provide examples of how to properly deal with society's vermin.

Excellent post.

Stay safe out there.

Lisa said...

How about paroling him "a bit" early...like at 84 years and 11 months? Seems reasonable.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm with you. The guy should never be allowed parole. He murdered someone for starters. What about that individual's family? Look what they lost. And then what about Kari when through? It would take a lot more than 'a little bit apologetic' for him to be worthy of parole. The only reason he's apologetic at all is because he wants out. It doesn't sound like he means it.

BobKat said...

Good followup, Slam... and I agree, in this case Don Nichols should serve out the full sentence. Dan Nichols I assume was paroled in 1990? So the old man should let it go at that.

As to your revised schedule? Taking some liberties there, aren't you? Well, can't blame you... don't know how you kept up the pace as long as you have. That you can dedicate even 3 days a week to your blog is admirable! And appreciated by many.

Is Keri Swenson still around? Wonder how she's done since the bronze medal? We tend to gloss over the victims and focus in on the offender. As is human nature, which is why I think she should have a voice in this...how does she feel about letting this guy free?

Would he have let her go free if the "marriage" hadn't worked out?

Ha ha... mountain man.

She had no choice, neither should you/he.

Tina L. Hook said...


That is awful. And what a brave woman to go on and continue to thrive.

SuziCate said...

It's amazing how so little time of a sentence many criminals actually serve; very sad.

Anonymous said...

They killed one, damn near killed a second . I believe no more time or resources needs to be spent on this case. Should be given a chance to repent and then be executed. There is absolutely no question as to guilt or innocence ! The appropriate punishment should have came the day he was caught. And yes I am from the south if you are curious;)

Nuke89to94 said...

I find it disgusting that the media keeps calling these kidnappers/torturers/murderers "mountain men". These two rodents don't even rate being called "men".