After serving 32 years in the Montana State Prison for kidnapping a female Olympian and killing her would-be rescuer in 1984, Don Nichols – a self-described "mountain man" – has been released on parole on Wednesday (23 August).
Nichols kidnapped Swenson to be a bride for his then 19-year-old son, Dan. The attack drew widespread media coverage and became the subject of a made-for-TV movie.
The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole voted to release Nichols in April. The board members also reviewed the record of his 30 years of prison life and noted his completion of educational programs, including anger management and life skills, the Guardian reported.
During the parole hearing, he told the board that he felt bad about his crimes and they would not regret their decision.
The 86-year-old was sentenced to 85 years for kidnapping biathlete Kari Swenson in the mountains near Big Sky in the US state of Montana and killing her friend Alan Goldstein who searched for her when she was reported missing in 1984. Dan Nichols was convicted of kidnapping and assault and was released from prison in 1991.
Swenson, who was 22 at the time of the attack, 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 accidently 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 south-western Montana.
The biathlete had said before another parole hearing in 2012 that she "endured being grabbed by both wrists, hit in the face, thrown to the ground, chained to Dan, threatened with knives and guns, marched through the woods, secured like an animal to trees and spent a terrifying night chained next to Dan."
She also called the two "crazy misfits" who chose to live apart from society and challenge its laws.
The case inspired a 1987 made-for-TV movie – The Abduction of Kari Swenson. The film starred Tracy Pollan and featured in an episode of Investigation Discovery's TV show Your Worst Nightmare.