« The Generation Why Podcast

Death Of Rhonda Casto - 324

2019-04-14

March 16, 2009. Hood River County, Oregon. A man called 911 to report that his girlfriend, Rhonda Casto, had fallen from a trail on a cliff at Eagle's Creek. He said that when he got down to where she had fallen to that she was already dead. The sheriff was suspicious of the man, Stephen Nichols, almost immediately due to his calm demeanor and how he seemed to talk mostly about his own discomfort. By the very next day the sheriff decided that this was a homicide investigation and the focus was on Nichols. What reason would Nichols have had to murder Rhonda? The theories, the evidence and the path of the case against Stephen Nichols wasn't as clear cut as prosecutors and Rhonda's family had hoped. Would they have enough to prove their case?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I do it's another I'm doing well justin. How are you I'm? Okay? Did you ever see abducted in plain sight on netflix no, but I have been watching now- are reaction, videos, I've seen a few of those you you need to watch it because
it's a very screwed up story. It's the most! I've ever seen, somebody over share and when I over share. I mean tell details that they probably should have taken to their grave. Ah dont know if it really helped them to be so open, but at the same time it's very humbling to see people so open and honest and give such a detailed account of something horrible that happened to them in some really bad decisions they made along the way. Not to be honest, I read and watch so much true crime, that their periods of time or I'd take breaks, and so I have really been in the mood to watch something like that. I've been mostly watching horror, films. This is a horrible noah fictional horror, films that this is so
and crazy on my own opinion, if anyone wants to know which we ve had about a hundred e mails asking for my opinion or our opinion, but since you haven't seen it I'll get mine, I do not condone The parents decisions that they made. I do not agree with them I also do not believe that it's our pound of flesh that we need to take from them for bad decisions that they made back in the nineteen seventies. They ve had to live with this, their entire lives. They are victims also, and their daughter was the main victim if she's forgiven her parents, then who are we to ask for our pound flesh to again I don't condone their behavior or their decisions, but
I am not going to go all outrage on them either that fair and balanced errand I have no idea. I haven't watched it. I care way for you to watch it. Will you said of a camera and do our reaction? Video weaken, maybe put it on patriarch, no one. I would get around a watching it at this point. It may feel The train already left the station by the time I even think about watching it am going to make you watch it. What else we got going on khan witches in new Orleans june, seventh, through the knife, two thousand nineteen we are going to be there. If you want to who join us use our code jen. Why? nineteen I will be in Chicago July, thirteenth for the true crackpot fast glad to their website. Tcp, F, twenty nine get tickets with no fees or minimums banking with capital. One is the easy decision in history of decisions even easier than
citing to listen to another episode of your favorite podcast with no overdraft fees. Is it even a decision that banking re imagined, what's in your wallet term, supply see capital one dot, com, slash bank capital, one in Member of the icy price line it goes. Saying that we're all missing travel right now, but you know elsewhere, missing getting more for less with price sign, you can save up to sixty percent on your favorite hotels, and you can also get exclusive deals on car, rentals flights and more and when you save more, you can do more more wild view, is incredible. More another round of room service, more sorry, boss. I'm going to extend my vacant in price line knows every trip is a big deal. So, when you're ready to book your next one check out price line, dot com, for the easiest way to get more How an extent vacations tonight's case is, one of those was murder or
tragic accident. I have to admit her and I am a little torn on this one. Ok, A lot of people aren't, but I am what are we talking about tonight tonight? We're talking rhonda casto who, on march sixteenth two thousand and nine the reason for a name, one one call that came from eagles creek and hood river county or again so again. This is two thousand and nine by the name of Stephen Nichols was calling nine one one to report that his girlfriend had fallen off of a cliff. We hadn't done this yet have we. I mean oh, wait this and the law. Ok. Well, people remember. We also covered a case involving Harold hen, thorn which You seem a little familiar, so he called and when one says his girlfriend has fallen off the cliff and is probably dead right,
that's right- and this is actually the second call in a two week period where someone was reporting a death off that trail. So it's a treacherous trail. It's not that outlandish for someone to fall to their death or get seriously injured in this area got it portland Oregon. Two thousand five Julia simmons was looking for a room to rent found an add on line and so she went to go check it out the man who would- I guess, Her landlord was named stephen nick. She was a thirty year old day trader. She can found him charming and as they talked, I suppose she really like the place which he also can I liked him, but not for herself. She was actually thinking about her daughter So she started talking to stephen about her daughter who was named Rhonda castillo,
Stephen didn't seem that interested he contemplated off, but Julia took the room, and one day twenty year old, rhonda cast out shows up and knock on the door suddenly Stephen is very interested in Julius dar, while I think he just didn't really take the mother seriously. There is a age gap there. but then, of course he sees her and very attracted to her Rhonda casto was, aspiring model. She actually already built up her portfolio, pretty well, because even is so interested in Rhonda he sir out, he starts, giving her expensive gifts. He said, she likes giving her jewelry They kind of hit it off and according to stephen, he thinks that his luck is basically his intelligence. He thinks that because he so smart that round as a true
did to that round. His family will say that she was attracted to just day confident man who had his life together and I that stephen really exuded that he was a day trader. And he took care of himself. He is able to buy diamond tennis, bracelets and other fabulous gifts. yeah I'd, say he's doing pretty. Well, it's about three years, later when they have a dog her together and it seemed like they would be headed towards marriage by stephen hadn't proposed. Yet, according to stephen, he is promising to propose to her, but just is waiting for the right time. Also, after rhonda has the baby she's put on some wait. She says she wants to lose this way before she gets a wedding dress. All those typical things that a cup
oh, that's wanting to get married. That's what they think about better Steve was, I guess, trying to encourage her to exercise and possibly go hiking and what not they weren't. That active of other couple, though, as far as the families says, they were avid hikers, they weren't izzie people. They just were a couple like any other cup, well, the other thing, though about them, as they didn't really spend a lot of time together with her side of the family, wasn't that they absolutely didn't get along just. They didn't really appreciate steve. Why dont think a lot of Things were set up from either side, so they only met Steve a few times. I think he wasn't really talkative, so they never really. To know him, but it is, as time goes on in your
the daughter who's going to be more possibly, to be married and you I don't really know who their marrying it's kind of awkward and if you think about it this the same guy that round his mother said was charming and now maybe isn't so charming. I think, with the age gap its power put a little bit of a strain on their common interests and what not she probably has different aspirations in life than Steve and it seems day, trading might not be going so well for him, in the later years of this relationship- so it was said by And as mother that Stephen had been, I don't bother. Doing wrong. Does the right phrase by kind of trying to set up a hike, and it was all having to do supposedly-
with oh, you want to lose some way. We could go hiking. I have some trails picked out, then that would help you get some exercise by it It didn't seem like Rhonda was too eager to go on the site for war and she didn't seem like she was much of a hiker, but The thing was, she said something strange to her mother. Didn't she not how serious or joking we should take this, but she said he going to give me a ring or push me off a cliff, and I will say that a lot of couples will joke like this, especially the letter into true crime. This is a running joke, but when it acts, happens literally right after someone says that you I will emphasize that this is coming from the family of what Rhonda said. You know when you
lose a loved one sure that every single interaction you ve ever had with the person you set, you think, might have taken your daughter's life. The perceptions are going to change trust, oh rhonda, eventually says yes to the hike and it's our mark six in two thousand and nine when she goes, hiking was stephen: it's not very good weather for a hike, but I do know that there are hikers spare the abbot ones who don't mind whether when they go hiking because it's about the hike thereof. Nature and assist that's nature. Well, it's like forty degrees and raining on and off. Mrs up an organ, it's cold if it is really cold and wet and miserable. I lie hiking, I might call it a day when I showed up at the trail with that kind of temperature, but she decided to go in when I was reading about this- and this is just
me trying to infer what she was thinking. But I believe that Rhonda went. As she wanted to know where they stood. She instead and had been experiencing a lot of issues and the region allegations of some physical abuse on stevens part, I believe, she went to try. See whether he was going to read vigorous their relationship or possibly ended. Just wanted to see where they stood. I think and that's why she went despite the horrible weather and a possible marriage, also would have been reinvigorating right. Yes, maybe he was going to say, hey I am recommending and going to commit in the greatest possible way. but whatever the intentions Stephen nicholls were, he places a call to name one one at six, a m
and p m calls up says I need help. I'm at eagle, creek, my girlfriend fell off a cliff and I hiked back I'm in my car. He goes on to say I hiked down and got to her. I don't know if I'm suffering from hypothermia, I'm freezing. Would you please send somebody of course, nine one one tries to clarify because she fell off the trail. He went down, did you pull her back up and he said no she's dead? So this goes on, they ask, she breeding when you left her, he says: no did you have a pulse says? No. I don't think so. They tell em, they have an office,
sir, and emergency crews on the way. I can't really tell you if his nine, when one call sound suspicious or not a lot of people, do not like the fact that he's talking about how cold he is and not about his dead girlfriend or how sure he is that she's dead. If you take a fall off A hundred and fifty four cliff you know I can understand why he would be saying these things, but how believable do you think he is? It took sixteen minutes for police fire fighters and other first responders to get to the scene they saw it had to have been a hundred and fifty foot drop for rhonda, where she had fallen from when they get their stephen nickel.
tells them about how rhonda fell down from a trail, it's a hundred and fifty foot drop off the cliff there and that he went down to find her and actually pulled her from the water and attempted cpr the fire chief is looking at stephen and he thinks he's a little too com and stephen, isn't meeting his eye, so he's getting really weird vibe. suspicious vibe from Steven. Stephen also says that he stayed with her for about an hour and a half and gave her mouth to mouth. So this none on one call is coming in much much later. So stephen is explaining that this is an accident, but many of the people who around him are are getting this feeling that he's really only concerned about himself,
These worry might have hypothermia, and I dont know by you just in bed, if he's hang out whether for an hour and a half, I mean that that seems kind of suspicious to me. I think if you're if the love of your life is fell off a cliff, the first instinct one might have Is to go down there and try to rescue them, try to help them, but if he's that cold an hour and a half is a long time He says there was no cell reception and that's. Why had climb back up and go all the way down to the car? I think that's believable. I have terrible self on reception. I have to go climate buildings to have decent calls up. So I'm still on the fence of how I feel about. If you look suspicious or not but calling an hour and a half later does not look good
just don't see why he would need to spend an hour and a half with her He said she wasn't breathing so we can assume that she died from the fall. So why is he spent? an hour and a half with his dead girlfriend, while he's getting possibly hypothermia when they ask him where she is, he gives them a vague. Description says about a mile up and they go searching around its almost forty minutes before they find her, and this is where I was. start to say I don't. I no longer dismiss his suspicious behaviour. If this was me, I don't care if I have hypothermia or not I'm going to lead them to where she is. I mean if there is any possibility that she could be saved or just hey. I want to help, but he doesn't led them to her body.
He just warms up and let them go off with about a mile up. This is a huge park. I've come on, I'm surprised they were able to find her and forty minutes honestly, while the fire chief continues to be suspicious of stephen and when he's looking at rhonda, he sees it. Her genes are torn and Her body is wrapped or on a rock that's about fifty feet away from the river. that's even said that he had found her in and that rock actually somewhat up a steep hill to answer. he's wondering like, why would you take her from the river and go up a hill and put her on a rock so it doesn't make any sense and then he's thinking How did you even do CPR because- and we ve cover this and other cases if going to do CPR. You have to have the person lying flat and from what
I can tell it didn't seem like he had ever done, that he is not being very forthcoming with He pulled her out of the river than did the cpr and then tried to pull up the hill. He just saying she fell and she's dead. I went down tour and I laid on her and fell asleep, which actually hypothermia that kind of what you do, but he's not explaining the movement of the body he's not explaining a lot of these other things, and this is why the fire chief think He looks very suspicious and is going to tell the authorities you need to look into this guy and with having been raining, you would think that they would see some evidence of him.
I'm moving rhonda around that area that they couldn't find any such evidence. Now, let's talk about what stephen nickel said happened right before her fall. He said that she was acting high in Lupi and she took out like a towel and threw it over her shoulders and ran like super girl down this very narrow path, covered and moss and slipped and fell. So that's it we're image to have in your head, given that this couple had been having problems in that Maybe this hike was about a proposal, a marriage proposal, but he says that took off running laughing and yelling, that she's super girl and then goes falling off to her death. Now they do find trace amounts of change see,
rwanda and some prescription drugs for brood, stabilizers or antidepressants now, just because you smoked a joint decision, reefer madness and you go think you're supergirl and you can fly all of a sudden it might make you a little loser, but at the same time I go back to the weather, its forty degrees out, and it's raining now you're going to be happened down the trail in doing this especially when it's slippery. But this is all speculation and going off of what he says happened. Eagle creek trail is the kind of place you would want to take some when you're going to propose to. I think there are some areas. It said that might be a little treacherous, but as long as your careful there shouldn't be any issues, also features about a dozen waterfalls. It's very scenic but again he's doing this on a day where
a cold and rainy and then of He lays out house he's running off just and we were too king a look at this part of the trail were supposedly she fell from, and it doesn't look like the type of area that, if it's raining and cold that you're just gonna go running through no In fact, it was, it was one of the most narrow points of the trail. I have a fear of heights myself, so I would probably be clinging to the wall in staying far away from the edge myself while they take steve into the hospital they get checked out police officers and a chaplain go to visit. his mother Julia, who has been watching around his baby. They go to talk to her, as they have some bad news be sure to check, where the crowded sing in theatres July fifteenth based on the best selling?
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And when he shows up julias telling the police, how her daughter had told her he's either going to give me my ring or push me off, cliff and Julia seems to insinuate that maybe Stephen, had something to do with her daughter falling from that cliff and I dont think stephen was too happy to hear about that. So long force meant doesn't let Steve leave with his daughter. She stays with the grandmother and he is sent away. I think this is one of the best things. During this investigation that law enforcement does stephen, asked about this marriage proposal, and he maintains that he did ask run, they go there so that he could propose to her bow and sk about the ring, He says that he must have lost it in the river when he went to go poor rhonda out of it. While he must have had a receipt.
or something that proved that he bought it. Yeah and I dont know if they even asked for that cause. I'm sure that I felt that I was under investigation. I'd be producing all the evidence. That would prove that what I'm saying is true, the lead investigator on this case sheriff jerry tiffany. That's a name. You want to keep in mind because anyway. They really think that there must be something to this, not being an accident there investigating things, but there really. Taking a look at Stephen nicholls, they discover that just three months before this, this hike took place. The couple had purchased life sharon's policies. They were for a million dollars each and if either
one of them had died, then their daughter would be the beneficiary now, obviously the guardian of said, daughter parent. What have you really gets to manage that money? So you can make the argument that regardless of who the pay out as to when you are the guardian over that person. That pay out really goes to you. Now. There is some question about how the police were questioning stephen nicholls. They questioned him a lot eventually. I think Stephen. tired of being questioned. He realizes that he's the chief suspect and he lawyers up, but it said that he tells the investigators I no longer want to talk and they keep questioning him when he doesn't have a lawyer present so not great on the investigation side. This is probably one
The first knox against them so keep down in mind. There are questions about the life insurance policies, any time someone dies and there was a life insurance policy taken out prior to their death, specially this close to their death. it's very, very suspicious. Accordingly, stephen though he says that there's nothing suspicious about it. because it was round his idea. She wanted to make sure that her daughter would be provided for in case anything were to happen and tube that up it was said is mostly by stephen but apparently- on the drive to the hike she had said thing to him about how she thought she might die before too much longer and to promise her that he would take care of their daughter if anything happened to her. This is all from sea,
its accounts. Yes, she made it sound like she didn't think she would make it a thirty which there are people who say that I had my youngest boy. they're telling me this a number of times years ago. Now he's past thirty now, but back then when he was in his early twenties. He would tell me quite often I don't know that I'm gonna make it to thirty, and sometimes people say that stuff in it doesn't mean that they really know anything, and so I don't want to get out that there is some sort of premonition here and also this is stevens. Word now there's questions about. why was she on these medications and it turns out that she was suffering from postpartum? This is what the doctors prescribed her again doesn't mean that she was suicidal It doesn't mean that the mix between these drugs
and marijuana would make her behave. Totally irrational manner, but we just have to present these facts. this was in her system. I would also you that, if she's taking medication for postponing depression, that means that she was doing our best to manage it during the next few months. Stephen is saying this was an accident. I had nothing to do with this. For the most part, his statements Are just more vague, I won't say that there are not adding up there just kind of vague and then Something else happens right. Yes, it's not six months after Rhonda castro's death, that Stephen nicholls was charged with five counts of sex abuse for allegedly touching a thirteen year old girl on our posterior, an he of course denied
but it was found that stephen had sent sexually suggestive tax to this girl and had sent. I selfie re at his shirt off thirteen yolande pleading guilty to one count, Sexual harassment, Stephen will argue, this doesn't make me a murderer. Meanwhile, are allegations and rumours that he was having a an inappropriate relationship with wrongdoers, younger sister, who was sixteen years old. He did eyes. These claims also run his best friend was jessica coal burn, and she was talking about rhonda going on this hike The way she understood it was to want, to go because stephen, never really ever planned anything for them, because there relationship was in trouble and see
was planning this hike that I don't know it's sort of romantic, he wants to go with me on a hike and maybe just Maybe they'll be something more to this. So why she said that run going. This friend has more to say about their relationship claims that it really taken a turn for the worse. that they argued a lot or steve will deny these claims. It is said They got into a heated argument at a bar because rhonda was was either giving other male patrons at the bar too much attend or they were getting her too much attention and this and into a heated argument again Stephen will deny that this ever happened. The abuse
Claims mentioned earlier, but really backed up by boat, jessica, holborn and round his brother Jeff, They had told the police about phone calls. They would talk to rhonda and then, in the background, They could hear stephen belittling her and calling stupid and insulting her Jeff castro. Then showed the investigators a photo that Rhonda had sent him. It was her back and her shoulders, and there was redness and bruce clearly visible, so rhonda took pictures of herself and marks on her and sent them to her brother, yeah I'm thinking going to take rhonda side here, one hundred percent and I think Stevens been lying about how great this relationship has been in this is stephen nicholls actually had a lawyer present. But when he was questioned about that, he said that it was not any thing to do with abuse
but that rhonda had had shoulder surgery, and so investigators looked into that in couldn't find that rounded ever had any shoulder surgery. What? Why would when even say that, like this is so easily checked out. another two years. It seems like nothing. Really happening. Stephen Nichols remains the focus of the investigation, but It's not like he's gone to court, yet anything, no right. He has and been arrested. Jerry Tiffany, who is elite, investigator retires. He's getting ready to leave and, as part of that process, he formats his hard drive on his computer. The f b I, who is trying to collect evidence from this case, can only recover fourteen images from that drive and they're, not even good quality.
So tiffany is asked about this and he said oh yeah, I wiped my dry, but I copied everything over to a thumb. Dr first only no one knows. for that them drive, is or if their even ever was one. I don't believe that it's just cause in procedure or practice to wipe your hard drive when you leave in all the jobs I had If the person who is leaving the company had any sort of raw of a job or any sort of data on their computer that would be considered important. A backup would be made in the I t department would do all of the formatting an ree imaging the computer for the next person. Will, let me put it this way. This is a work computer. So what business is it of his to wipe this machine? When
has important files on it related to a case that the police were building against a man who may have murdered his girlfriend. Unless just not stop there, many other cases whereon there- how much other evidence was on their? How many cases did he actually destroy because of this because he didn't want people to see his internet history because he was probably using as computer for something and appropriate, but this is all speculation. Coming from me right now, tiffany said well checked all that into evidence right, meaning the thumb drive with files and everything on it, but the next sheriff Matt English testified that he doesn't see any record of such evidence being checked in and he said this actually may be a criminal act on tyrannies part they don't follow up with tiffin ease
being of evidence or his hard drive? The judge basically rules that, given he knew what he was doing, but it wouldn't reach the threshold of criminal b. Savior or something to that effect, and they let him go it's kind of lake. Where it happens, oh well, I mean we can't go back and recover it. So what's done is done, you would think there would be some sort of compliance see that these people would have to adhere to it s. Not so we have investigators asked, being stephen questions after he says, he's no longer interested in answering the questions.
Now, we have them wiping out all the evidence and all the documentation to this alleged murderer. So this is now years after this incident right well by two thousand. Thirteen stephen nicholls had moved across the state, so we give closer to his family and with him is his little daughter whose now about four years old and no one really gets news about her. They don't get to see her and that's because. stephen has supposedly cut off all contact he's, not interested in speaking with round his family. I think at this point, though, that there is this, frustration that the family has knowing that he they have murdered rhonda and that he
not been brought to justice. So it's almost like there's this drive to get the police to do something about that. Also, there was the rumour that he had an inappropriate relationship with the younger sister, who was fifteen sixteen, maybe therein, Harkin, but it sucks because they can't see their granddaughter. There is some investigation into this support. this relationship and we say suppose it because, with the Younger sister being not of age, this is statutory rate absolutely and they find this text that Rhonda sent well. It makes clear that Rhonda had found out
about this relationship where this statutory rape just hours before she went on this hike. The texts is as follows. I dont know what to say. Besides he's a piece of shit, he use you to hurt me. I won't let him screw us up again. When you need me. I am waiting that tax was sent to her younger sister, so Rhonda is in the no and at least understanding towards her sister, because she knows that when you're teenager an older man That's enough thirty's knows better and is a to manipulate and groom and all of a sudden, not other allegation of the thirteen year old, makes a lot of sense. Let's talk again about what possibly happened up on this cliff at eagle creek. You know Stephen nicholls was saying she was having
a time. She put the tallow oversell from his running and yelling that she was super girl, and then there was an accident Jeff Cassell round. His brother said may he did propose maybe got down on me and then they're off the cliff, but I would say if rhonda found out, that her boyfriend was sleeping with her under age sister. I dont think she was going. there to see it. Getting married, she may have confronted him, and rightly so, lately he's already lied about so many things. thinking we're getting down to the nitty gritty of what went on that, oh yeah, what was the motive if he murdered rhonda? She might been telling him hey, guess what I'm getting rid of you I'm taking our daughter and
won't see her again, it's almost as if the million dollar life insurance policy is inconsequential. At this point, that's just an added bonus for him if he gets rid of her because he doesn't want to lose her or his daughter. The end skaters believe that maybe sister who stay and had raped. Maybe she could be useful to them. You know it in clearing up this whole case, and so they set up what amounts to a sting operation and in a series of foam, calls to Stephen. This sister starts reference seeing their affair, but sir, this seems a little too crafty to be caught in such a trap, as you he doesn't say anything that incriminate himself he's very vague. Meanwhile, the million dollar life insurance policy.
To cash in on that, but its tied up, because when there's an alleged murderer or suspicion of that becomes a legal situation. I believe these phone calls from the sister get stephen to take action, and he decides to go back to china, which that's a country he used to live and he was also married to a woman from China previously so he's no longer day trading, and we also know that in two thousand and eight They trading was going downhill, so as no surprise that when he goes back to china that he gets a job teaching english to chinese businessmen, now, why might have gone
in China. We know he's familiar with it, but what's another good reason he might go to china to flee the the states. I mean. That's the obvious explanation: there's no extradition from china, nothing that the us authorities could do to bring them back. Now, I'm going to say in his defense again, I'm not trying to side with anyone, but we got. unbiased. Here he doesn't go to china and top many years after. The fact is that, like he picked up and left right away, it's possible that he the heat was on from law enforcement and that's why he picked up and moved or maybe he thought I totally got away with something and I'm just move into china. You can go. However, you want with that. The a family hired a paralegal investigator named darby
Robinson. Their task was to learn more about stephen Nichols past and justin. It's interesting in november of two thousand and three in china. They found a deposition from that I'm where's, stephen nicholls former wife testified to an incident that and where she was afraid that she was going to die at his hands. She says that he tried to throw off about Guinea- and it was, I guess that, like a business we're deal at a hotel, so other people prevented it from happening. Carter reminds me of the whole Michael petersen thing: did he kills wife away? We find out that, somebody previously in his life fell down some stairs, also
oh here we have his previous wife alleging that he tried to throw off a balcony. This kind of meets an m o. If he's trying to kill women by falling death. She stated that her legs were actually over the balcony and that, if it wasn't for her in Roy stepping, in that she would have been off that balcony. By nothing really happen from there, because the charges were dropped for insufficient evidence. But this deposition remained So the investor is able to find it. I think this is a learning moment. If you think somebody's done something against you, you should always report it. I know times we don't get the response or the reaction We want one, we report a crime or report, something but at least a fire.
I was made a report is made- and there is a portrayal now about that person. That could be a pattern, and I think that this shows a pattern It's at this point where they have several pieces of evidence that they can present to a grand jury stating We believe this man is a murderer, and so they pulled up. This deposition from china, thee issue of the statutory rape with rhonda sister and, of course, the evidence from the eagle creek trail where a supposedly rhonda was either pushed throne or fell from, but of course, there arguing that this was murder justin, my question here is, as they say that tiffany destroyed much of this evidence, because it was on his hard drive and
They must have something left over because they're still presenting evidence to grand jury in April. Two thousand fourteen have the life insurance policy. They have the nations of statutory rape there. The allegation of previous attempt on a wife. They have pictures if possible, bruising or red marks, rhonda halves shipments from him that don't seem to add up and statements. Family members. Exactly it's not looking good form Most of you know, I've been an audible subscriber for like a decade now, audible offers an incredible selection. audio books across every genre. I personally love the audible originals. They have everything from top celebrities down experts and, as an audible member, I get access to a growing selection of audio books. The originals podcast, it's all included in my membership,
I get one title a month to keep and I get to hear exclusive podcast that I can't find anywhere else. I just but the audio book, anti social about online extremism, techno utopians and the hijacking of the american conversation audible hope you discover new ways to laugh, be inspired or be entertained. New members contrived for free for thirty days does audible dot com, slash gaeta, BP were text gaeta, BP, two five hundred five hundred, that's audible, dot com, slash cheetah, BP or text gaeta BP, two five hundred five hundred to try audible, free for thirty days, audible, dot, com, slash J, w p February, two thousand fifteen. They needed a way to get Stephen nicholls back to the united states, because there is no way to extradite him from china
they knew that was new were trying, so they needed await a lure him back. They send a notification that there is a potential problem with his daughters, visa sneaky snaky one. He falls for this and he wants to clear it up because he's happy and China may knows. If there's a problem at the visa, that's not the kind of problem. He really wants chinese government. Doesn't I take well to that. I don't think you'd ever want to be put in a chinese prison or be deported or have your daughter deported so yeah. He decides to fly back to the states when he arrived in San francisco airport. The hood river or again authorities were waiting. There for him his daughter was taken and two round his family. And then Stephen was taken and interrogated right there in the airport and arrested charged with murder,
He was indicted on two counts, a third degree. Rape and three counts a third greece, autonomy for the statutory rape or as call that relationship with a fifteen year, all who was rhonda sister- and this was back in two thousand five- also came out that Stephen nicholls had proposed to a girlfriend back in china. I wonder she felt like dodge the bullet, the trial was set for two thousand seventeen I dont know. If we ve highlight did this well enough, but despite a lot of suggestive evidence because of tiffany, they also lost a lot of evidence. The judge had ruled that all of the statements that police took from stephen at the san francisco airport
were inadmissible because it wasn't very clear on whether stephen had actually waved his right to remain silent and in this regard I I feel like that was the right call, because I can't imagine stephen nicholls a man who had fled the country would wave his room. like to remain silent at that point, so this trial wasn't looking perfect. You know what I mean like. Sometimes you go in and you think they're going to find this guy guilty and we've even cover cases like that, like the kendhammer case, but this one this was going to be a little tricky. They also did these tests where they were ro a dummy off the cliff to try to recreate round his fall and they were unable to do that in due course. The prosecutor says yeah. This is what it looks like and it's not even those they bring in the medical examiner. That did the autopsy who
about how most of her injuries most of rendezvous injuries, we're on her lakes and not on her upper torso, meaning If she was shoved, wouldn't she go head over heels and not down feet. First, I'm just gonna get my own personal opinion right now on this, I dont think the wounds on her body, dictate weather. Not she was shoved or if she had a fall, I dont think you can determine that. Even the dummy falling down doesn't tell us a lot. He could have shoved her and she could have still fallen feet. First, doesn't mean that he shoved her and she went head
first he could have even just given her a minor bump and sent her off. That trail, I really don't think that there is any physical evidence in this case that proves or disproves that he shoved her unless she, of course, grab onto him claude ham. If there was some you, no physical. works on them. That would dictate that there was a struggle, but we don't really have that. Also, there happen to be another hiker on the trail that day who saw them and of course he wasn't interviewed by police, he wasn't questioned. He even offered information to the police at the scene of the crime the day of according to him. He will he got the cold shoulder. He got brushed off course, the defence. bring this guy on put em up the stand and he says yeah I saw
a man and a woman describes them perfectly walking down the trail the man was behind the female and they looked happy they didn't look like they were arguing or anything so yeah. You would think that this is an open and shut case, but to me it's unless somebody saw him shot her off that cliff. It's almost impossible to prove yeah, you you can say well. It took. An hour and a half to call for help, but he admits to that He admits that he was with her for that long. So when people get to her and she is cold, that says that she's been dead data while well greater the timeline that might be possible, given the temperature out there and that it's raining as their putting this case together at trial, it seems as though the the judge,
finally has enough and judge. John wolf decides that the prosecutors and their defence should just hash out a deal to avoid a jury trial. This is the part of the case where I think almost every one feels like this becomes a disaster yeah everyone at this point definitely feels that way. I I will say that I felt like it was a disaster way before this and I am sure that rawness family wasn't exactly happy now not the guy that they believe murdered their daughter walking around four five or six years after the fact, there's one more thing that happens- the author, Steve Jackson, who we ve actually talk to on numerous occasions. The defence brings up an email that he sent to the prosecutor at the time that they do.
The grand jury and he asked. Will there ever be any resolution to this case and the prosecution says well, we'll see what a grand jury says essentially on paraphrasing the course, the defence latches onto this and says: oh well, you don't go after the sky for over five years and then of a renowned author. journalist emails you and now the sudden you're pushing this case. They allege that the prosecution was influenced, or pressured by steve to pursue this conviction? I don't read that from the emails, but it probably is inappropriate to have this kind of a communication for a case between journalists and prosecutor, but I dont read it much more into it, but
the defence does have their points and they go into a plea. Deal right. The murder charges are dropped in favour of criminally negligent, homicide and coercion, and this meant that nicholls would receive a sentence of time served which cover the nineteen months he spent in jail awaiting trial and three years parole, he couldn't make bail, so he been sitting behind bars its entire time, which isn't pleasant for anyone, and I just have to say that innocent until proven guilty, but here have a man that just spent a lot of time behind bars, but as time served, he walks and this does not make, renders family happy- and I can understand why, when the judge has had enough,
Many would probably point two when sheriff matt English testified as to this direction of all autopsy in crime scene. Evidence from the case, which was, of course done by the former sheriff tiffany. They didn't have any hard evidence at that point, stephen nicholls. Was released and his fiance broke things off. She had actually, come to america with them, but she returned to china without him. There goes another love, the state of oregon step in and took away stevens parental rights. Now he appealed. I don't know what do you feel up? How do you feel about that? Just send me As I one hand, he wasn't found guilty of murder, and I like the way that prosecutors had intended. It was negligent, homicide right so
guilty guilty. Is this why he loses his parental rights? Or is it that plus the statutory raby plus this show harassment of and under age girl. I would assume its plus all those other things they don't want to put this child's life in danger. I will say that when it comes to the verdict There are, I guess, three ways to look at this: the first Look at it is this guy got a site on the rest for murder. If you dont think there was an- evidence against him. Then this guy, just that in jail for nineteen months for something that he didn't commit, although he did plead guilty to thee negligent homicide charge,
worth three. This is the way the system supposed to work. The system did give us justice based on the lack of physical evidence, so when a car to all the knox against the investigation we have. We have a hiker that wasn't interviewed. Have the destruction of all the evidence. We have an interrogation that could have gone too far. Even his statements were deemed inadmissible. We have what appears to be a corrupt investigator who deletes all as information. Let me just re emphasise that when it comes to proving beyond reasonable doubt, how'd. You prove that somebody was shoved off a cliff if there is no marks on anyone's body, his statements don't add up. He looks like a liar and a pedophile how'd. You prove he did it fight that diver that was accused of murdering his wife
If I may say well, I had to do was go over and too air off wait for her to die and in turn the back on and then swam away, unless somebody saw it it's downright impossible to prove all we have is bad or suspicious behaviour in zero evidence, so I think they did the right thing with, determining that they should do a plea, deal and work this out, because wise, a jury mighta. Let him walk. We talk before about the million dollar policy and how, if you are the guardian of the beneficiary, who under age. Well, it's kind of your money. renders mom Julia simmons was found guilty of fraudulently. Collecting thousand of dollars and by thanks the dollars I mean thirty, nine thousand dollars from social side. eddie death benefits in her granddaughter's name, which he did was she was
aiming that her grand daughter is living with her for about a five year period, she was actually living with stephen, so We should not have been able to get those benefits. She was sentenced thirty days in a halfway house and given three years probation and and joy was also ordered to pay back the nine thousand dollars. So this goes to why she wasn't put in charge of the insurance money that's going to the granddaughter, because she's already been tried and convicted for fraudulent activities. and stephen nicholls, because he had lost his parental rights, then attempted to have the guardian of his daughter, removed from the management of her trust. But that didn't work because the person who was her guardian was a financial planner by trade issues.
Very good at that, and so Stephen really didn't stand a chance. We also talked about the destruction of the evident several times. We feel I am assuming you agree, just end that something have been done about tiffany destruction of evidence it just seems beyond responsible, but what the share department did do. Is they requested an audit from another sheriffs department? And I think that's good, because it looks like, even though they are not going to get justice for the situation. They are addressing the problem. Exactly policy change, something anything, because if you are not willing to air correct, then everyone can just
format their hard drive when they just feel like it and it's ok. I couldn't do that at my corporate job and there weren't people's lives dependent on my job. All the data on my on my hard drive had to be held for up ninety days after I left the company. So it's one thing to look at a situation, say: oh they're, doing the right thing, it's another thing for that to act to be executed properly, and in this case it wasn't because the sheriff of other department. Well, he got into a lot of legal trouble himself and it was found that he had pocketed about a hundred and thirty six thousand dollars by creating fake expense work. ass. He had also snuck into his own evidence. Lockers and made off with
about seventy thousand dollars in cash, precious metals coins that were seized by his own department and well he's a criminal that didn't work out too well, but sheriff english, ended up in a going beyond this unjust, creating a new protocol for his department, and it requires backups of electronics record. So that we don't have a situation where someone says format and then everything's lost everything must be backed up now. They have a process that requires backups wow, what a concept, its twenty nine teen and we're gonna backup data add up police department. They got there in the andreasen; they they even secured. The evidence lockers
and what they did? Was they installed cameras and card readers, so they can visually see and have electronic records everyone who enters and leaves that area times I wish I would have been a police officer five year, ago in this department, so I could have just made off with whatever I wanted from the evidence department. I'd be a millionaire today and that's the sad thing is There are literally people across the country who were there to recognise your weaknesses and exploit them. So who knows what had happened in the years prior to them modernizing and twenty nineteen, and this all goes back to does stephen look guilty sure Can you prove it beyond reasonable doubt? I think that
was a intelligent decision by judge wolf to make them hash out a deal, because otherwise I could see a jury, letting him walk. I mean would have been sort of the same outcome as far as time served, but he would have got his daughter I think the prosecutor set. It correctly carry erasmus and said in court for years that, Strict attorney's office has believed that Mr Nichols is responsible for the death of Rhonda castillo that this case is about believe it's about the facts that can be presented to a jury at trial and, as we know they didn't have a jury. Trial after we recorded this episode, we were contacted by jessica colbert, who was rond as best friend, she had something she wanted to say. So she sent us
message here is what she said: rhonda was beautiful and she had a passion for life. She was fiercely protective of the people. She loved she was the life of the party and could start up a conversation with any one. People were drawn to her rhonda depression on and off her whole life, and I could see it was because she felt things so deeply, when she had her daughter rod? His passion for life was ignited He was so excited for all the things they came along with being a mother when she found She was having little girl she could. A bit more excited. could go on and on what s on the way forty eight hours, Steve states. Now that Rhonda took her own life, historic change from being an accident. What people dont know rhonda was the best mother. She was still breastfeeding. Baby when she died. If she had planned this, you would not have sylvan breastfeeding People also, don't know is that I was ass, her mother for that baby for over a year that press
Little girl endured so much abuse. While her dad kept her in China. She was isolated. Ever in schools. If she was in hiding there d hs documents proving that The thing she told me about her father are awful, she had never seen a single photo of her mother. She was also hold that her mommy died in a car accident, All I'm saying is, I have so much to say. I had given up on trying to convey this now that stuff nicholls is out on the street. I think it's important for people to know about him and stay away from him.
The.
It feels like we're living in the golden age of scammers from Anna delve ii to the tender swindler. These stories are almost impossible to believe that their amateurs, next, as your bare sickly from wonderingly and pineapple street studios, comes the new true crime, podcast persona, the french deception, the untold story of one of the greatest criminals of the twenty first century, a man who khan the world's most powerful billion airs corporations and even religious leaders out of hundreds of millions of dollars. They all thought there were smart enough to spot a con, but they had no idea. dealing with. Do you hear the full story? Follow persona the french deception. Wherever you get your pike ass or you can listen early on amazon, music for early and ad free by subscribing to wondering, plus it apple pod gas, for the wonder, YAP.
Transcript generated on 2022-07-09.