BREAKING: Nickelson pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2012 Riverton shooting

Dustin-Nickelson(Lander, Wyo.) – Dustin Dean Nickelson pleaded guilty this morning to manslaughter in connection to the September 2012 shooting that resulted in the death of Lucas Myhre, 27, of Riverton.

A pre-trial conference was scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning, but the Fremont County Attorney’s Office and Nickelson’s defense team reached an agreement. Nickelson was scheduled for trial on March 25.

The manslaughter charge is a downgrade from an original charge of second degree murder, which carries a sentence of no less than 20 years. Manslaughter is a felony punishable by no more than 20 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines. The manslaughter charge states Nickelson “voluntarily and upon a sudden heat of passion killed a human being.”

According to the plea agreement, the prosecution will not argue for less than six years in prison nor more than 12 years. The agreement also allows the defense to argue for any sentence they deem necessary.

Court was delayed this morning to allow for family of the victim to be able to attend.

After Ninth District Court Judge Norman E. Young discussed rights and court fines, Nickelson pleaded guilty. In order for the plea to be accepted by the court, Nickelson had to give testimony regarding the events that occurred on Sept. 13, 2012.

He told the court that he is 24 years old, is not married, has no children and has an 11th-grade education level.

“There was a knock on my door,” Nickelson said of the evening in question. He said he went to the door to answer it, and he saw “a man I’ve never seen in my life.” Nickelson said the man, later identified as Myhre, threatened him.

“He tried to attack me, and I shot him,” Nickelson said. Per Young’s questioning, he said he had a .45 handgun with him when he answered the door. “I thought I shot him five times, your honor,” he added.

According to the affidavit filed along with the original charges, three gunshot wounds were found in Myhre. Autopsy results obtained by the Fremont County Coroner’s Office showed that Myhre had methamphetamine in his system.

Nickelson said to his knowledge at the time he saw no weapons on the other man.

Given Nickelson’s testimony, Young said there appeared to be aspects of the case available for an argument of self defense and reminded Nickelson that if he accepted the plea, Nickelson would not be able to use that defense.

Young accepted Nickelson’s statements as well as the information provided in the affidavit with the original charges as factual basis for the guilty plea. Nickelson did not object to using the affidavit. More details from the affidavit can be read about here.

Young ordered a pre-sentence investigation. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.