Man sentenced 25 years to life for killing ex-girlfriend, unborn baby

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Erik Ohlson at Friday’s sentencing | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

DRIGGS — A Jackson man who murdered his ex-girlfriend and killed her unborn baby will serve 25 years to life in prison.

Erik Ohlson, 42, was sentenced by District Judge Bruce L. Pickett Friday afternoon following hours of testimony and victim impact statements. Ohlson shot and killed 39-year-old Jennifer Nalley, who was 8 to 12 weeks pregnant, at a cabin in Driggs on July 5, 2016.

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Ohlson sat stoned faced and did not react when Pickett handed down the sentence. The only time Ohlson showed emotion during the hearing was when he started to cry as his sister described how they were best friends. Ohlson’s mother also took the stand on his behalf.

Jim Archibald, Ohlson’s defense attorney, asked Pickett to give his client 10 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole in seven years. Archibald justified his request by mentioning Ohlson’s struggles with alcoholism, his lack of a criminal record and the “emotionally stressful” situation he was in with Nalley.

Archibald said this case began as a love story and Ohlson and Nalley enjoyed spending time together. They met in March and Nalley became pregnant in May, which is when they started having relationship problems.

“I want you to see how mean they were to each other. It wasn’t just him,” Archibald said, referring to text messages that the pair sent back and forth in the months leading up Nalley’s death. “His texting was in response to hers.”

Teton County Prosecutor Billy Siddoway detailed Ohlson and Nalley’s “rocky relationship” throughout the sentencing. Around the middle of May 2016, Ohlson sent text messages saying he wanted to kill not only Nalley but wishing for the death of the unborn child.

“I’m truly sorry but we are finished,” Ohlson texted on May 16. The message was followed up with, “Throw yourself down a flight of stairs you crazy b—.”

At some point during the conversation with Nalley, Ohlson said hurting her would eventually happen.

“This does not make me happy,” Ohlson texted. “I don’t want to hurt you but I suppose it is inevitable.”

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A witness noted Nalley told her in June that she was scared and, in the days leading up to the murder, Nalley was getting ready to obtain a restraining order. The day before her death, Nalley sent an email to Ohlson saying she did not want to talk to him and she blocked Ohlson from calling her.

“A no-contact order is coming,” Nalley said in the email.

At some point on July 5, Ohlson entered Nalley’s cabin, pulled his Glock handgun out of his back pocket and shot her eight times. Before he arrived, Ohlson texted a friend and said he had his Glock loaded, shoes tied and was ready to kill Nalley.

Erik Ohlson gives a brief statement moments before being sentenced for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

He then claimed to have left the house while “trying to get the courage to kill himself.” Unable to pull the trigger, he said he threw the gun on the side of the road and drove away. He said he intentionally drove into a utility pole with the intent to take his own life. Deputies then arrested him for driving under the influence.

Siddoway asked the court to sentence Ohlson to 15 years in prison for the killing of Nalley’s unborn child and 40 years for Nalley’s death.

Before receiving his sentence, Ohlson briefly spoke and apologized for his actions, saying nothing can replace what he did.

“You did not have the right to choose to take those lives,” Pickett said.

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