Judge sets murder suspect Nichols’ bail at $200,000

STEPHEN NICHOLS appeared in person at a bail hearing at the Hood River County Courthouse, as seen in this picture taken of a monitor used by CBS video crews. At left is Nichols’ attorney’s legal counsel, Emilia Gardener of Eugene-based Arnold Law.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill/CBS
STEPHEN NICHOLS appeared in person at a bail hearing at the Hood River County Courthouse, as seen in this picture taken of a monitor used by CBS video crews. At left is Nichols’ attorney’s legal counsel, Emilia Gardener of Eugene-based Arnold Law.



Following an intensive three-day bail hearing, a judge set Eagle Creek murder suspect Stephen Nichols’ cash bail at $200,000 Wednesday morning.

Stephen Wagner Nichols, 40, a Bend man accused of pushing his girlfriend off a cliff in 2009 while hiking Eagle Creek Trail near Cascade Locks, appeared with his attorney before Judge John Olson for a release hearing (or “bail hearing) at the Hood River County Courthouse.

Nichols was charged with the murder of Rhonda Casto, 23, of Portland via a secret indictment handed down April 2014, according to court records, and was ultimately arrested in February 2015. Nichols pled not guilty to Casto’ s murder in May.

Nichols is scheduled to stand trial in late May or June of next year.

The bail hearing, which spanned Monday, Aug. 3, through Wednesday Aug. 5., called forth police and medical professionals to examine evidence regarding the scene of Rhonda Casto’s March 2009 death and the subsequent investigation by law enforcement.

Upon hearing testimony from medical and law professionals, Olson set Nichols’ bail at $200,000, which is one-tenth of his total $2 million bond. In order to be released from Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility, Nichols would need to put up that 10 percent in cash.

“The judge made a thoughtful decision of what he thought was fair and we accept that. And now we’re just gonna play the hand we’re dealt,” said Michael Arnold, Nichols’ attorney after the hearing. “The next step is to try to secure bail.”

Evidence discussed at the hearing concerned the physics of Casto’s fall and cliff at Eagle Creek Trail, the management of photographic evidence by law enforcement and the gap in time between Casto’s fall and Nichols’ arrest.

Police were first alerted to Casto’s death at Eagle Creek Trail near Cascade Locks in March of 2009.

According to a story in the March 18, 2009, edition of the News, Hood River County 911 received a call on March 16, 2009, from a man, later confirmed to be Nichols, who reported Casto had fallen to her death.

Nichols’ next appearance at the Hood River County Courthouse is a Miranda Hearing set for next Wednesday, August 12. Arnold indicated he will pursue a former motion to suppress evidence of what Nichols said under interrogation by police in February.



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