Multiple Denver police officers testify in Bowman County homicide case

The state continued presenting its case on Thursday, Feb. 15 in the felony jury trial involving two individuals in the alleged homicide of a Rhame man at a motel in Bowman in 2016.

Chase Swanson

The state continued presenting its case on Thursday, Feb. 15 in the felony jury trial involving two individuals in the alleged homicide of a Rhame man at a motel in Bowman in 2016.

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.

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. A Class AA felony faces a maximum of life in prison without parole.

Bowman County State's Attorney Stephanie Pretzer, with the assistance of Britta Demello Rice and Jonathan Byers from the North Dakota Attorney General's office, presented another 15 witnesses on Thursday, a majority of whom work with the Denver Police Department and had interactions with West, Swanson and Todd Pashano on the evening of Aug. 20, 2016. Pashano was staying at the El-Vu motel.

Timothy Helmer, a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Investigations, also testified on Thursday. He showed photos of the crime scene, including graphic photos of the victim. He also said they had received a cell phone ping on West's phone in Cheyenne, Wyo. that day.


West, Swanson and Pashano travelled to Cheyenne and dropped off various items at West's father's home, two witnesses testified. The same witnesses testified that West told them, in varying ways, she was either "going to jail" or to Mexico, but said West did not reveal any more information.

An agent with the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation testified about the items he had found in the West garage on Aug. 20, 2016. He said there were also items located in a trash bin.

Helmer testified that he would later travel to Wyoming to pick up the items, which included a pair of red sweatpants that had reddish brown stains on them, a backpack with reddish brown staining and a Rhame fire department plaque, among other things.

Video surveillance footage of West, Swanson and Pashano at a Denver marijuana dispensary that day was also shown Thursday. The video showed the three walk in and then Pashano staying behind to take out cash at the ATM.

Footage was also shown of the three at the bar of Art Hotel in downtown Denver. It showed the three sitting together for some time before West and Swanson left, leaving Pashano alone for nearly an hour, Troy Visgard, a Denver homicide detective, testified. Visgard said Swanson later came back before leaving Pashano alone again, it was around this time when Pashano called 911.

During the 911 call, which was played for the jury, Pashano said he had been kidnapped and there was a gun involved. He also said he watched West and Swanson kill someone in North Dakota. The call was placed just before 6 p.m. on Aug. 20, 2016.

Around seven Denver police officers also testified on Thursday. West, Swanson and Pashano were taken into custody at the Art Hotel in the evening hours of Aug. 20. Pashano has been charged with hindering law enforcement, a Class C felony.

Each officer spoke about their involvement in the arrests, their body camera footage was also played for the jury. One officer testified that West and Swanson were cooperative. Another Denver officer testified that West "seemed confused" and was not verbally answering questions. West was later taken to the hospital for a medical check.


Additional Denver officers said they swabbed the fingernails of Swanson, West and Pashano as well.

Swanson is represented by Thomas Murtha and West is represented by Kevin McCabe.

The case resumes Friday morning in Dickinson.

Madison West
Madison West

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