Last week, an Oregon man accused of killing his girlfriend by pushing her off a 100-foot cliff pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and coercion in her death.
Eight years ago, his 23-year-old girlfriend Rhonda Casto was killed during a hike along Oregon’s Eagle Creek Trail. According to PEOPLE, authorities believe he killed her to collect on a $1 million life insurance policy.
Stephen Wagner Nichols, now 42, was sentenced last week to 19 months for each of the felonies. He was also given three years probation. But, seeing as he received credit for his time already in prison, he will not spend any jail time for the murder.
Nichols’ defense attorney, Mike Arnold, claims his client was “falsely accused.”
“It was a long time coming,” Arnold told PEOPLE. “It is an amazing outcome. It is not every day that somebody charged with murder ends up with criminally negligent homicide and a probation sentence.”
Casto’s mother, Julia Anne Simmons, said she feels numb.
“I feel awful,” he said. “I think he [Nichols] should be in prison.”
She described her daughter in the report as precocious, loud and funny.
“She was 23 and in the prime of her life. She had everything going for her.”
Castos and Nichols share a daughter together. The mother believes Nichols killed her because Castos was considering about leaving with the child, who was an infant at the time.
At the time of Casto’s death, Nichols told police that she accidentally slipped.
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