National/World

Infamous Mont. 'mountain man' comes up for parole

Friday, April 27, 2012
FILE - This Dec. 18, 1984 file photo shows Don Nichols, right, standing with his son, Dan Nichols, left, as they pled not guilty in court in Virginia City, Mont. Standing with them is attorney, Steve Ungar. The U.S. attorneys office in Montana has filed federal drug and weapons charges against Dan Nichols, part of the father and-son duo convicted in kidnapping a world class athlete in 1984, killing a would-be rescuer and eluding authorities for months, April 19, 2012.

FILE - This Dec. 18, 1984 file photo shows Don Nichols, right, standing with his son, Dan Nichols, left, as they pled not guilty in court in Virginia City, Mont. Standing with them is attorney, Steve Ungar. The U.S. attorney's office in Montana has filed federal drug and weapons charges against Dan Nichols, part of the father and-son duo convicted in kidnapping a world class athlete in 1984, killing a would-be rescuer and eluding authorities for months, April 19, 2012. (AP Photo/File)

A notorious "mountain man" who abducted a world-class athlete in 1984 to keep as a wife for his son faces a parole board Friday that will want to see more far more contrition than he has showed in the past.

Don Nichols' third parole hearing comes as federal authorities search for his son Dan, accused earlier this month with new drug and gun crimes.

The father-son duo made international headlines three decades ago when they abducted world-class biathlete Kari Swenson while she was on a training run in the mountains above the resort town of Big Sky. They then eluded police for five months after shooting her and killing a would-be rescuer, Alan Goldstein.

The pair, who had lived for long stretches in the mountains by poaching game and eating from makeshift gardens, evaded a prolonged manhunt by living in the remote wilderness northwest of Yellowstone National Park. Their habits prompted authorities to label them with a "mountain man" moniker they embraced.

Swenson, despite diminished lung capacity from the gunshot wound, went on to compete at a high level. The Bozeman veterinarian opposes parole for the 81-year-old Nichols, writing in a recent letter to a Montana newspaper that Nichols could again pair up with his son and harm others.

U.S. Marshals have said the younger Nichols is considered very dangerous while on the run. He first skipped out on relatively minor drug charges received at a rock concert last summer. Then a federal indictment released last week alleged the younger Nichols, released in the early 1990s for his role in the Swenson crime, and two other men were involved in a statewide marijuana distribution ring that netted nearly $1.8 million.

The elder Nichols is serving an 85-year prison sentence that could release him in 2030 or paroled sooner.

"I do not believe anyone could want him free and living in or around their communities," Swenson wrote earlier this week. "If he is released, I hope no one ever has to meet him on a street, in the mountains of Montana or anywhere."

The elder Nichols has blamed others - including Swenson - for the crime by arguing they were in the wrong place. And in an apparent effort to minimize the crime in lengthy journals and manuscripts written shortly afterward, he said they only bound Swenson with a "lightweight" chain.

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