A Gardnerville woman who killed her roommate, Jason Thrift, on Dec. 2, 2013, was drunk and had fought with the victim much of the morning before loading a handgun and shooting him, District Attorney Mark Jackson said on Tuesday.
Nicole Christine Followill, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon in the Toler Lane shooting. Her’s was the second plea in a Douglas County shooting on Tuesday, with Melvin Norlund, 81, pleading guilty to second-degree murder earlier.
Followill told Judge Michael Gibbons that she didn’t remember how the 9 mm Glock got into the living room, but that she’d been trained in its use.
She said Thrift came in and she felt threatened.
“I was very scared, and he beat me that day,” she said. “I put the clip in the gun, and pulled the slide back.”
Followill said she pulled the trigger and closed her eyes before she heard Thrift fall, but never looked at his body.
District Attorney Mark Jackson said the timeline showed that Thrift and Followill had been fighting through the morning and that Thrift had several injuries including a bite mark to his leg.
Followill’s official blood alcohol content shortly after the 11:18 a.m. shooting was .177, twice the legal limit.
He said the fight was documented by Thrift, who was texting Followill’s brother that morning.
“At 9:30 a.m. he sent a note to her brother that he had been hit in the face and bit on the leg,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that within a minute of the shooting, Thrift hit her hard in the face. That’s when she reached for the pistol.
Followill said she remembered Thrift coming at her, but that forensics indicated he was crouching when he was shot in the forehead.
“This was not a first-degree case from the start,” Jackson said. “Over the course of the last several months in preparation for trial and obtaining further details and evidence related to the timeline leading up to the killing, it became apparent that the homicide was a result of more than a slight provocation and that a significant act, far beyond an assault of a trivial nature, occurred within a minute of the killing.”
Under the plea agreement both sides are free to argue for whatever sentence they feel is appropriate.
Followill faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for voluntary manslaughter and up to another 10 years enhancement for using a firearm.
The maximum sentence for the two counts could be up to 20 years.
Gibbons pointed out that Followill could get probation, but that it would be wise not to count on that.
Jackson asked for an entire day for sentencing, saying he had several witnesses to call, including Thrift’s mother, and evidence to present.
Gibbons set Nov. 6 for sentencing. Jackson said restitution in the case would be for the cost of burying Thrift.
Gibbons canceled a Sept. 16 trial, where Jackson said he planned to call 30 witnesses, including 10 experts.
An eight-day trial in a Feb. 23 shooting death at Lake Tahoe that was scheduled to begin Sept. 2 has been delayed until December. Round Hill resident Tatiana Leibel, 50, claims husband Harvey killed himself, but investigators contend the evidence doesn’t support her story.