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New prosecutor to take over death penalty case

November 10, 2016 GMT

Voters in Teton County, Idaho, have elected a new prosecutor, which puts the county’s only murder case in the hands of a new attorney.

Prosecutors Kathy Spitzer and Chris Lundburg have handled Erik Ohlson’s case since he was charged with Jennifer Nalley’s murder in July.

The team decided to pursue the death penalty because Ohlson, a Jackson resident, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder — one for Nalley and one for her unborn child. It’s what Nalley’s family wants, they said.

But Spitzer is out and attorney Billie Siddoway is in starting in January. Siddoway runs a local private practice.

“I won’t have any comment until I have an opportunity to review the file and the evidence,” Siddoway said in an email Wednesday. “If you’d like to get back to me in late January, I’d be happy to discuss the matter with you.”

Calls and messages to Spitzer and Lundburg went unanswered Wednesday.

Ohlson is accused of shooting and killing Nalley at her Driggs cabin in the early morning hours of July 5. The two were involved in a romantic relationship and had recently broken up, according to friends. Nalley was 8-to-10 weeks pregnant, according to autopsy reports. Ohlson confessed to throwing the gun in bushes and driving away before crashing his truck into a telephone pole.

He sat in jail charged with DUI until a family member found Nalley’s bullet-riddled body a few hours later. He was subsequently charged with two counts of murder.

The case has evidence against Ohlson. That includes a taped confession with Idaho State Police soon after his arrest and damning text messages to a friend before the murder. “I want to strangle her and witness her last mortal moments,” one of the messages read.

Defense attorney Jim Archibald, out of Idaho Falls, plans to file a motion to suppress evidence, which means he’s trying to keep the taped confession from being used during trial.

With or without certain evidence, some local leaders believe the case is strong enough to convict Ohlson no matter who’s wearing the prosecutor’s hat.

“I would anticipate that prosecutor Spitzer will help with the transition and get the prosecutor-elect up to speed on her strategies and suggestions,” Teton County, Idaho, Sheriff Tony Liford told the Jackson Hole Daily. “It shouldn’t affect the case.”

Prosecutor-elect Siddoway, an Idaho native, started Siddoway Law Office in 2012. She has trial experience in issues such as agriculture, real estate, healthcare and sales, according to her website.

“We will consider additional types of cases, but do not generally handle divorce or criminal defense actions,” the Siddoway Law Office website states.

“I believe she has defense experience,” Liford said. “She also has a deputy prosecutor that she has in mind who has courtroom experience on both sides.”

Many plans can change with a capital case changing hands four months after the murder.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the death penalty was taken off the table in a plea deal,” Liford said. “But that may not be the strategy of the prosecutor’s office.”

Liford believes Ohlson deserves a life sentence, he said. “But I don’t have a problem with the death penalty,” he added.

Ohlson waived his right to a speedy trial late last week, agreeing to a July 2017 continuation. Both counsels said they needed more time to prepare.

Efforts to reach Ohlson’s attorney Wednesday were not successful.

A hearing on motions to suppress and dismiss the second count was scheduled for Jan. 20.