Police identify Bowman homicide victim

Police identified the victim of the alleged homicide that was reported on Saturday at the El-Vu Motel in Bowman as 23-year-old Nicholas Johnson of Rhame.

Crews from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation examine at room Saturday at the El-Vu Motel in Bowman, wearing white forensics suits. (Photo by Bryce Martin)
Crews from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation examine at room Saturday at the El-Vu Motel in Bowman, wearing white forensics suits. (Photo by Bryce Martin)

N.D. Group Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

Police identified the victim of the alleged homicide that was reported on Saturday at the El-Vu Motel in Bowman as 23-year-old Nicholas Johnson of Rhame.

Bowman Police Chief Chuck Headley confirmed the man’s identity at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Bowman County Courthouse.

The two suspects in custody, who were employees at the El-Vu Motel located at 409 Highway 85 South in Bowman, were named as Madison Beth West, 26, and Chase Duane Swanson, 21, both of Bowman. The two were apprehended together in Denver on Saturday evening and are being held at a correctional facility in Colorado.

Todd A. Pashano, 28, was identified as the third person that was taken into custody with West and Swanson. Police originally said he was from Minnesota but indicated Tuesday that he carried an Arizona driver’s license.

Headley stated that the three were found driving in a pickup truck belonging to the victim.

A source, which requested his identity not be released, said ahead of the press conference that Pashano was kidnapped by the couple. Pashano had resided in the motel room next to West and Swanson.

Police could not publicly acknowledge the allegations of his kidnapping since the investigation is ongoing.

The source, which identified himself as a friend of Pashano, said Pashano had texted him late Saturday afternoon saying that he was being held hostage at gunpoint by the two suspects. Pashano had heard shouting from next door and went to check out the situation, according to the source.

The source said he and another friend were involved in a group chat with Pashano for fantasy football.

“We blew off the message, then about four hours later (Pashano) starts texting us again and telling us he was kidnapped at gunpoint at the El-Vu motel Friday night and to call the cops,” the source stated.

He said that he had informed law enforcement of the situation and was subsequently questioned.

According to the source, Pashano had activated GPS tracking on his phone to alert authorities of his location. Though police could not yet confirm that detail.

“His explanation text was he was coming home from the bar and his neighbors grabbed him, held him at gunpoint and forced him in their room,” the source said. “He got blood on him and then drove him to Denver to make it seem like he was trying to flee.”

Both West and Swanson have a lengthy list of prior charges according to court documents.

“It’s tough but my biggest sorrow is for the Johnson family,” West’s uncle, Darrel West, said on Tuesday.

Madison West was charged in July with two felony counts that included theft of property, a Class A felony, and felon in possession of a firearm, a Class C felony. She also faces two misdemeanors for altering a firearm and simple assault.

She was awaiting a preliminary hearing on the charges at the time of this incident.

According to police, West had assaulted two female family members in July then fled the scene.

The family members at the time suggested that West was a danger to herself and others “stemming from her violent drug induced outbursts,” according to a court affidavit.

Those alleged victims also told police that they had found a weapon on West’s bed inside her home, a .22 semi-automatic rifle that had been sawn down to 32 inches and its serial number ground off, the affidavit stated.

The gun was later identified as one that had been stolen during a spree of thefts in Scranton.

West had a history of criminal activity according to court records and is a convicted felon. She was on probation at the time of her July arrest in Bowman.

In 2013, West was jailed for one-year, with credit for 39 days served, after she violated probation from a 2012 Burleigh County case in which she was found guilty on four criminal counts, including a Class A and Class C felony for possession of drug paraphernalia and intent to distribute.

She was ordered to undergo treatment for drug abuse during her incarceration.

West was then arrested in Stark County several months following her release from jail for possession with intent to deliver marijuana and methamphetamine, as well as possession of cocaine paraphernalia.

Those counts were later dismissed, according to court records.

After her arrest in July, she was lodged in the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Facility in Dickinson, but was released after posting bond, which was set at $2,500 cash and an appearance bond of $2,500.

West retained John Dean Bruhn of Dickinson as counsel, according to court documents.

Swanson faced three felony charges related to an incident that occurred in June.

Bowman Officer Ross Dannhoff reported in a court affidavit filed July 12 that a male victim had informed police of Swanson striking his face with a piece of steel rebar earlier that day while he was playing video games at a Bowman residence.

The man told police Swanson claimed he had a cache of weapons and threatened his life, according to the affidavit. He was later airlifted to a Bismarck hospital for a possible skull fracture and injuries sustained from the assault.

Swanson was later arrested, which is when police discovered he was in possession of methamphetamine and related paraphernalia, the document stated.

He was charged with aggravated assault, terrorizing and possession of a controlled substance, each a Class C felony.

His bond was set at $1,000, with a $200 deposit with the court. He was later released and ordered to appear at the Bowman County Sheriff’s Department to be equipped with a drug monitoring patch.

As detailed in court documents, Swanson had continually violated terms of his release by testing positive for illegal drugs.

Bowman County State’s Attorney Stephanie Pretzer said on Tuesday that she had recommended to the judge presiding over the hearing, Judge Dan Greenwood, that the previous bond be increased.

Instead, Greenwood released Swanson on personal recognizance.

Pretzer said an attorney from the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office would serve as second chair when the homicide case appears in court. As of Tuesday, however, nothing has been released regarding official charges against the suspects only that they were named in arrest warrants from the state of North Dakota.

Headley indicated that, by law, the suspects would have to be extradited and returned to the state no later than Sept. 8.

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