Man charged with killing ex-girlfriend six years ago
(KTVZ.COM) BEND, Ore. – A south Deschutes County man just arrested for the 2009 killing of his ex-girlfriend had moved to China, leaving a home off Vandervert Road south of Sunriver, according to Deschutes County court records.
Area neighbors on Trader Lane said it’s been more than a year since 40-year-old Stephen Nichols lived at the house with his parents, who still live there.
Nichols was arrested last Thursday at San Francisco International Airport and charged with killing 23-year-old Rhonda Kristen Casto of Portland. The Hood River News reports Casto died in March of 2009 after falling off a 100-foot cliff in the Columbia River Gorge.
South-county neighbors who wish to stay anonymous told NewsChannel 21 that police have shown up at the house in the past occasionally, although they hadn’t been seen there in the past two years.
The neighbors also said Nichols moved to China more than a year ago, taking a daughter he had with Casto with him.
Deschutes County court records show Nichols was arrested on sex abuse charges in August of 2009 — more than five months after Casto died. Nichols eventually pleaded guilty — but in 2011, the charges were dropped.
Hood River County court records department did not respond to request for a copy of the arrest warrant. The Hood River County district attorney and officials with the sheriff’s office declined to comment for the story.
Nichols was arraigned in Hood River on Friday morning. His next court appearance is March 3rd.
Nichols is being held without bail at the NORCOR Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles. If convicted, he faces a minimum 25-year prison sentence and a maximum life sentence.
We’ll be pursuing more leads on this story and will bring you more details as we get them.
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