A long-running legal drama that has captured communities on both sides of Teton Pass concluded Friday with Erik Ohlson being sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Ohlson, who pleaded guilty in February to the July 2016 murder of Jennifer Nalley and to involuntary manslaughter for the fetus she was pregnant with, was given credit for nearly three years already served in prison. Teton County (Idaho) District Court Judge Bruce Pickett also ordered a minimum 10-year sentence for the involuntary manslaughter charge. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

Pickett heard witness testimony, a video impact statement from Nalley’s parents and closing arguments from lawyers on both sides.

“As I’ve sat here and listened, and took notes and prepared for today’s sentencing,” Pickett said in court, “I’ve thought about the multiple lives you ruined that night.”

Ohlson originally faced the death penalty for two counts of murder — one for Nalley and one for her unborn child. He was accused of driving to Nalley’s cabin in Driggs, Idaho, on July 5, 2016, and shooting her multiple times in the back before dropping the gun at the scene and fleeing. He was arrested on a DUI charge a few miles from Nalley’s cabin that night after crashing his truck into a power pole.

After public documents came to light in February that revealed Ohlson more or less admitted to the killing in a jailhouse phone call, his lawyers reached a plea agreement with the state of Idaho that took the death penalty off the table.

That deal, in which he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and one of involuntary manslaughter, came nearly three years after the killings. Nalley’s family had wanted a swift end to the case, rather than the protracted legal battle that occurred, but Jim Archibald, Ohlson’s lead attorney, said resolution had been impossible until the death penalty was taken off the table.

“As lead counsel, I cannot let a client plead guilty when he is facing the death penalty,” Archibald said early in his closing argument.

Later, Archibald’s voice cracked as he said, “I apologize to those I’ve offended; I don’t mean to offend, but I mean to do all I can in my responsibility and my obligation.”

The sentencing was a tale of opposing stories, one from the defense team, Archibald and John Thomas, who talked about a man reeling from a breakup and an unhealthy relationship. They also said Ohlson had been in the throes of alcoholism when he killed Nalley as they asked for a 10-year sentence, the minimum for first-degree murder.

Teton County (Idaho) Prosecuting Attorney Billie Siddoway, meanwhile, painted a picture of Ohlson as “immature, egocentric and irresponsible,” words pulled from an evaluation of him conducted while he was imprisoned. She asked the court for a sentence of at least 40 years before the possibility of parole, which would have effectively made it a life sentence, as he would be in his 80s before being able to apply for parole.

Pickett said he weighed the “mitigating and aggravating circumstances” in making his decision. In balancing the crime’s egregiousness with Ohlson’s lack of criminal history and compassionate family ready to support him should he receive parole, the judge settled on a sentence squarely in the middle of what the lawyers asked for.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-5902 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

(22) comments

julie carniglia

Jennifer was a loving, fun, caring girl. Somebody took her away too soon. I can't imagine why anyone would want to take her so soon. She brought so much joy to the world.

Kathryn Turner

This crime is horrific. But the charge of double murder is problematic for the idea of legalization of abortion. He was the father. As a society, do we agree that it is different to kill a woman who is pregnant than one who is not? If so, we are agreeing that their unborn child is indeed a child and a life worthy of protecting.

Johna Moore

According to Idaho State Legislature Section 18-4001 “Murder defined. Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being including, but not limited to, a human embryo or fetus, with malice aforethought or the intentional application of torture to a human being.” Jennifer Nalley chose not to have an abortion and that was her right. As for Ohlson being the Father, does anyone know that was absolutely true? No DNA test was done on the baby! Another bungled fact of this case! This was a case of PREMEDITATED DOUBLE HOMICIDE!” The only problematic fact in this case was the extremely light sentence that the murderer was given!!!

John Niendorf

The MONSTER killed my niece and her baby. I almost vomited in the court room when he "mother", if you can call her that as she certainly was absent when morals and a sense of right and wrong were to be taught to her child, was offended that my sister refereed to the Killer as a monster. Here is a news flash: It takes a monster to raise a monster.

Johna Moore

She claimed he had problems because of growing up in an atmosphere with an alcoholic Father ? What kind of Mother raises her children in such s harmful environment? I uttered those exact words! “It takes a Monster to raise a Monster! A Killer is NOT a good boy!”

Terry Milan

It's a common excuse and if you listen to the news gets pandered all to often. This guy shouldn't be treated like he is a juvenile. This is a man who was given the time to grow up. This is a society issue where we feel that people aren't accountable for their actions, so they are not held accountable. In so many ways accountabilty is just an old fashioned term.

Johna Moore

Sad but True!

Butner Creedmore

Miscarriage of justice.

Steven Kardas

Note also that Mr Ohlson was provided with 2 court appointed lawyers so the tax payers of Idaho got to fund this judicial fiasco that should have been wrapped up in a few months. The strategy for the disgraceful delay tactics of the defense team was to get payed for as long as possible. It worked. Call me a cynic but I really believe his lawyers were motivated purely by self-interest. I am not sure what was motivating Judge Pickett to allow this to go on so long. I will say again, one could not be more guilty of murder that Mr Ohlson. He confessed to the state police. What are the details about law enforcement allegedly not providing legal counsel and the confession thrown out ? Did't they read him his rights ? Anyone know anything about this ?

Johna Moore

Absolutely delayed as long as possible! When you are not reputable attorneys you are guaranteed an exorbitant salary at the tax payers expense! If you research the lead attorney’s reputation you will understand my statement above!

Terry Milan

It was another case of miss application of Maranda and his confessing without a lawyer present. I don't know what the lawyers make, but the prosecution bungled and he might have switched lawyers to elongated the process. The judge played along with this whole process instead of just making a firm deadline and holding someone in contempt for the delays I knew a public defender who tried playing games like these and ended up in jail twice himself for playng around with judges. Apparently some judges can't be played.

Terry Milan

People are ademently against the death penalty until the murder is one of their own and then they wonder why there is no death penalty. That is the issue with the death penalty, it is arbitrarily applied. Two murderers, one gets death and the other gets paroled. Why not an even rule: you take a life, you lose yours.

Johna Moore

Premeditated Double Homicide should automatically qualify for the Death Penalty or life in Prison WITHOUT the possibility of Parole!

julie carniglia

AGREED!!!

thomas hill

Three years before "justice" is served mainly because of the disgraceful delay tactics of the defense team (and by the way, Ohlson gets credit for that time served!) In our legal system, everyone gets a fair defense, but Attorneys Archibald and Thomas, who both knew Ohlson was guilty of premeditated double homicide, disregarded the impact to the family and the community by maliciously delaying this sentencing. 25 years for a double homicide? Ohlson robbed Jennifer's family of their daughter/granddaughter/niece and they now have a life sentence of grief. Is this justice? Of course not...

Johna Moore

Unbelievable isn’t it? No one could bring their loved one back but 25 years for premeditated Double Homicide????? It should have been life without the possibility of parole!!!

Johna Moore

The Judge claims he carefully considered the lives that Murderer ruined that night? What about the Grandmother, Uncle, and the twin small cousins that discovered her bullet riddled body on her front porch the next morning? What about the death of the Nalley’s only child who was expecting their first and only Grandchild? What about the fact that this was premeditated and he even texted another girl on the Roller Derby Team that he was on his way to Driggs to kill her with his gun loaded? So according to the article he got sentenced to 10 years for her baby and that means that he only lost 15 years of his freedom for killing Jennifer Nalley? That is inconceivable to me!!! And then he gets credit for the almost three years that he has been in the county jail when every game was played to delay, delay delay by this monster and his legal team??? I am absolutely appalled at this case! Lesson learned, if you are premeditating a murder make sure you do it in Idaho!!! Too bad it didn’t happen in Jennifer’s home State of Texas! He would have a choice of execution or Life in Prison without the possibility of Parole like he deserves! Shame on you Judge Pickett!

Johna Moore

I’f Also like to ask since he texted a Roller Derby Teammate of the victim that he drank 6 beers, had his pistol loaded and was tying his shoes to go to Driggs to kill her why wasn’t that woman prosecuted for doing nothing? She couldn’t call to warn her or call the Police! What a disgusting case when facts were ignored! I am truly appalled!!!

Steven Kardas

The case of Mr Ohlson is an example of what is wrong with our justice system today. He should have been tried and sentenced years ago. Instead he and his lawyer were allowed to play games with the justice system to delay the inevitable verdict causing even greater grief for Jennifer Nalley's family and friends. One can not get more guilty than Mr Ohlson. A very dangerous man. To think that he may see freedom again is unconscionable. I live very close to the scene of the double murder. He had premeditated intention of killing Jennifer Nalley and her unborn child. To allow him to plea that the death off the baby was unintentional is abhorrent. A judge with real guts would have settled this a long time ago.

Jack Nalley

It should have been double that.

Johna Moore

My sincerest sympathy goes out to your entire family and friends for this charade of justice!

julie carniglia

Yes!!! It should of been!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
If you share a web address, please provide context as to why you posted the link.