Mar 12, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterDustin Dean Nickelson, 24, of Riverton, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the September shooting death of Lucas Myhre, 27, of Riverton.
Nickelson initially had pleaded not-guilty to second-degree murder in the case, and he could have faced life in prison if found guilty of the higher charge.
Through a plea agreement made Friday, however, his sentence will be capped at six to 12 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
The new charge of felony manslaughter alleges that Nickelson voluntarily, upon a sudden heat of passion, killed a human being. He has been in custody on a $1 million bond since the evening of Sept. 13, when Myhre was found shot to death in front of Nickelson's apartment at 811 E. Adams Ave.
Nickelson's change in plea came after a pretrial conference held Friday in the Ninth Judicial District Court of Fremont County. Officials will undertake a pre-sentencing investigation this month, after which they will schedule Nickelson's sentencing hearing. His trial, which was scheduled for March 25, has been vacated.
If either Nickelson or the state fails to abide by the agreement, the entire deal will be rendered null and void; Nickelson will be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea, and the state will be allowed to proceed with prosecution of the earlier charges against him.
If Nickelson fails to abide by his bond, the agreement also will become void, but Nickelson will not be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. In that situation, again, the state would be allowed to proceed with prosecution of the earlier charges.
If the court rejects the agreement, documents state Nickelson will have the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea, and the state will be allowed to proceed with prosecution of the earlier charges.
According to reports, Myhre had intended to visit Nickelson's neighbor Sept. 13 but had knocked on Nickelson's door accidentally. Nickelson reportedly "pulled a gun on" Myhre at that point, and Myhre went next door. Nickelson reportedly followed soon afterward, knocking on the neighbor's door "loudly" and asking who Myhre was. Police said Nickelson was holding the gun at that point, and he said Myhre needed to "chill ... out." Nickelson and Myhre reportedly exchanged words, and Myhre pushed Nickelson before others in the apartment intervened.
Nickelson left, and Myhre went outside to speak with three people who had been waiting for him in a vehicle. According to reports, he told the occupants of the vehicle about his encounter with Nickelson and asked if they wanted to see "a guy get beat up."
Myhre returned to Nickelson's apartment and apologized to Nickelson, then "called him on" to fight outside of the apartment. Myhre said he would take Nickelson's gun, and Nickelson said he did not want to go outside and fight.
Officers said Myhre took a "step in an aggression act towards" Nickelson as Nickelson was standing inside of the apartment building. Nickelson removed the safety lock from his weapon and fired the gun.
Officers said Myhre was lying face down on the sidewalk in front of the steps to Nickelson's apartment when they arrived at the scene. Responders tried for 10 minutes to resuscitate Myhre, who showed no signs of life. Medical personnel confirmed at the scene that he had died, according to court documents.
Autopsy reports showed that Myhre was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his death. The autopsy also determined that seven bullets had struck Myhre's body, causing 18 wounds to his head, arms, shoulder, back, thigh and body cavity. Nickelson reportedly told police at the scene that he had "fired on" Myhre eight times with his SAR .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
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