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Man who claims he was kidnapped testifies in Bowman County homicide case

The felony jury trial for two who are alleged to have been involved in a homicide in Bowman County in 2016 continued on Friday with lengthy testimony from a man who claimed the two kidnapped him after witnessing the suspects hit and stomp on the ...

Madison West
Madison West

The felony jury trial for two who are alleged to have been involved in a homicide in Bowman County in 2016 continued on Friday with lengthy testimony from a man who claimed the two kidnapped him after witnessing the suspects hit and stomp on the victim's body.

Madison Beth West, 27, of Dickinson, and Chase Duane Swanson, 22, of Bowman, have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, a Class AA felony. A Class AA felony faces a maximum of life in prison without parole.

The charges stem from the death of Nicholas Johnson, 23, of Rhame, who was found dead in a room at the El-Vu motel in Bowman on Aug. 20, 2016.

Todd Pashano, 30 of Kingman, Ariz., testified for around four hours on Friday, telling the jury what he witnessed the weekend of Aug. 20, 2016. He said he had known West and Swanson for around a month before Aug. 19, as he and the two lived only a couple doors apart at the motel. He said he had spoken with them many times and the pair often asked about getting a flagging job with the road construction company Pashano worked for. Pashano was a supervisor for the company and eventually decided to bring West and Swanson a job application on the night of Aug. 19.

When Pashano knocked on the door he said he was "rushed" in by Swanson before seeing a man laying face down in blood on the floor. He also testified that West was completely naked "riding on top of" the body and laughing "hysterically." He said he was made to sit on the bed in the room and wasn't allowed to leave. He also testified Swanson used a flashlight to hit the victim in the back of the head two to three times.

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Pashano also claimed Swanson "tried to slit Nick's throat" before declaring it was "time to go." Pashano testified from his vantage point he could not see a belt wrapped around Johnson's neck.

Pashano said Swanson followed him to his room at knifepoint as he gathered his things. He was then blindfolded and his hands were bound with rope before getting into a truck and laying across the center console. After making a stop at Swanson's family home the rope and blindfold were removed, Pashano testified. The group then traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., before heading to Denver.

At one point Pashano testified he was beginning to feel "expendable" but West told him "nothing is going to happen to you as long as you cooperate."

In Denver, Pashano was allowed to use his phone to locate a marijuana dispensary and later to book a hotel. Once they arrived at the hotel the group went to a lounge/bar area where West and Swanson eventually left Pashano alone for some time. Pashano texted friends about what was happening and then eventually called 911 and police arrived.

Kevin McCabe, attorney for West, pointed to multiple occasions where Pashano was alone either with or without his cell phone and asked why he didn't run away or attempt to notify authorities sooner.

Pashano testified he was trying to cooperate because Swanson had a gun and he was scared for his life.

Thomas Murtha, attorney for Swanson, questioned Pashano about variances in his story to law enforcement as well as criminal charges he is facing himself in the case. Pashano has been charged with hindering law enforcement, a Class C felony, in connection to the case. He said he did not know why he has been charged, but added that it had made him upset. Pashano's case is set to go to trial at the end of May.

Kyle Splichel, a DNA analyst with the state crime lab, testified about various pieces of evidence that were tested for DNA involving the case. Splichel testified that Johnson's DNA was found on multiple items, including West's shoes, Swanson's underwear, Pashano's shirt and others. Johnson's DNA was also found on a red flashlight that was believed to have been used in the crime.

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The case is set to resume on Tuesday morning.

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Chase Swanson

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