A self-described “Mountain Man” has been released on parole after serving 32 years for a high-profile kidnapping of a world-class athlete.
According to The Guardian, 86-year-old Don Nichols was freed after being sentenced to 85 years for kidnapping Kari Swenson, a biathlete who was out for a run in 1984. His motive was to take Swenson and make her a bride for his son.
The then-22-year-old Swenson says that Don and his son, Dan, chained her up in the Montana mountains near Big Sky and threatened to shoot her.
“I endured being grabbed by both wrists, hit in the face, thrown to the ground, chained to Dan, threatened with knives and guns, marched through the woods, secured like an animal to trees and spent a terrifying night chained next to Dan," she said.
As the Chicago Tribune reported in 1985, the Nichols men lived off the grid for years. They shared in court that Dan wanted "to come off the mountain," and his father hoped that kidnapping a bride would keep him in the wildness.
"I loved my daddy a lot," the son testified. "He was my main person. He was my favorite person. My dad didn't believe in society. He didn't think there should be laws."
The elder Nichols took his son into the woods when he was 6, saying, he "shouldn't be in school."
Swenson's friend Alan Goldstein discovered her as part of a search party. When he tried to free her, the elder Nichols shot and killed him. Don and Dan then fled and kept authorities on a five-month manhunt. They were eventually caught in December.
The harrowing story was documented in the 1987 made-for-TV movie "The Abduction of Kari Swenson" starring Tracy Pollan.
[Photo: Montana Corrections Deptartment]