Killer in Bizarre 1984 Case Is Freed on Parole

'Mountain man' Don Nichols kidnapped world-class athlete to be his son's wife
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 24, 2017 9:18 AM CDT
Killer in Bizarre 1984 Case Is Freed on Parole
In this Dec. 14, 1984, file photo, Don Nichols, right, is led into custody along with his son, Dan Nichols.   (Uncredited)

Self-described Montana "mountain man" Don Nichols was released on parole Wednesday after serving 32 years for kidnapping a world-class athlete out on a training run in 1984 and killing her would-be rescuer—an attack that drew widespread media coverage and became the subject of a made-for-TV movie. Nichols, who must report to a parole office in Great Falls, was granted parole in April, per the AP, citing coverage in the Missoulian. Nichols, 86, was sentenced to 85 years in prison for kidnapping biathlete Kari Swenson in the mountains near Big Sky and killing Alan Goldstein, a friend helping to search for Swenson when she failed to return home from her run. The reason for the kidnapping? Don wanted Swenson to be a bride for his then 19-year-old son.

Swenson, who was 22, said she was chained up during her ordeal and spotted her would-be rescuers before her abductors did. She yelled at them to leave because Nichols had threatened to shoot anyone who tried to help her. Nichols shot Goldstein, and Nichols' son Dan apparently accidentally shot Swenson. She said she was left for dead with a "sucking chest wound" for hours as Goldstein's body lay nearby. Don and Dan Nichols fled and were arrested five months later after a manhunt in the mountains of southwestern Montana. Dan Nichols was convicted of kidnapping and assault and was released from prison in 1991. The case was the subject of a 1987 made-for-TV movie The Abduction of Kari Swenson, starring Tracy Pollan. (More mountain man stories.)

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