POLK COUNTY, Iowa – A Bondurant man has pleaded guilty on all three counts in the murders of his parents and sister and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
During an emotional hearing Monday morning, 21-year-old Chase Nicholson appeared in Polk County Court for a plea hearing where a judge accepted his new plea. He had originally pleaded not guilty to the three counts of first degree murder he was charged with.
The judge also sentenced Nicholson to three life sentences, to be served consecutively. He must also pay restitution of $150,000 for each victim.
During the hearing Nicholson spoke of how, and why, he acquired the gun used in the murders of his parents and sister. He said he bought the gun from an online forum because he wanted to kill himself.
"I went online and there was a private dealership and there was a guy with a shot gun on there and I contacted him, I met him and bought it,” Nicholson said.
He said on April 6, 2017, the day of the murders, he heard voices in his head telling him to kill himself – then the voices told him to kill his family. Chase, who has a long history of schizophrenia, blames the voices for the crime he committed. He also said he had ill-will in his heart and blamed his family for his mental illness.
During the hearing, Nicholson's aunt gave a victim impact statement which asked for three consecutive life terms as punishment. Several people in the courtroom, including Chase Nicholson, were sobbing during the statement.
Nicholson's defense attorney Matthew Sheeley said, "He did not make the conscious decision to wake up one day and say, 'I want to hear voices,' he did not wake up one day saying he wanted to self harm himself."
Before the sentence was read, Chase Nicholson told the court he was sorry for what he did and that he misses his family every day.
Mark, Charla, and Tawni Nicholson’s bodies were found at the family’s Bondurant home after deputies with the Polk County Sheriff’s Officer were called on to perform a welfare check.
Nicholson was taken into custody in Missouri and court documents show he admitted to using a shotgun in the killings. A search warrant in the case revealed one of Nicholson’s victims was also found with a knife protruding from an eye.
Before a plea deal had been decided on, Nicholson’s attorneys said they planned to use an insanity defense at his trial.
Seth Nicholson, Chase’s cousin, told Channel 13 Chase had struggled with mental health issues for much of his life and his family had run into roadblocks in getting him the treatment he needed.
Chase’s grandmother Dixie Nicholson wrote to the judge in the case, prior to his plea hearing, begging for her grandson to receive mental health treatment following his sentencing.
I am Chase Nicholson’s 83 year old grandmother.
I do believe that Chase would not have commited[sic] these horrible crimes if he was not mentally ill. For many years his parents tried to get him the help he desperately needed, but to no avail. He needed long term observation and monitoring of his behavior and medication that would be correct for him. He never got that in this state of Iowa which is very close to the bottom on mental health care.
I plead with you, your Honor, to help him get that kind of help at Oakdale, and be able to stay there long term. I know he will never be free again, but I know of the brutal life we would encounter if Oakdale releases him. He is not a criminal, but a mentally ill 21 year old that hears voices in his head. I love him very much, and my son would want me to fight for him.
Thank you, your Honor, for reading this.