Murder charge stands |

Murder charge stands

by Sheila Gardner
Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson explains a coroner's inquest to the jury in East Fork Justice Court on Thursday.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

Nicole Followill is to appear Wednesday in East Fork Justice Court on an open murder charge in the death of her 33-year-old roommate after a coroner’s inquest determined that the victim died by criminal means.

The 29-year-old Gardnerville woman has been in Douglas County Jail on $1 million bail since the Dec. 2 shooting death of Jason Richard Thrift.

On Thursday, three jurors and an alternate heard testimony from Douglas County law enforcement officers, witnesses and Followill herself in a videotaped interrogation to determine whether Thrift’s death was by criminal means, or justifiable homicide as the suspect claimed.

Jurors Randy Green, Inge Costa and Jerilyn Johnson deliberated for an hour and 20 minutes before finding that Thrift died by criminal means.

District Attorney Mark Jackson said Friday the inquest was “very helpful and very beneficial.”

“That’s why this case was presented as a coroner’s inquest at the very beginning to try to get some input from people within the community and why the case is presented neutrally,” Jackson said.

The inquest was held before East Fork Justice Tom Perkins who selected the jurors.

As a civil proceeding, the same rules do not apply as in a criminal hearing.

“It’s a nonadversarial proceeding,” Jackson said. “It’s not like a criminal case as there are no other attorneys. It’s similar to a grand jury proceeding, but not secretive in nature. The standard rules of evidence don’t apply.”

Jackson presented all the evidence and questioned the witnesses. Followill did not attend.

Jurors heard from Followill’s brother, Shaun Followill, neighbors to her residence in the 1300 block of Toler Lane, witnesses who saw the suspect and Thrift fighting outside the house, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, Investigator Ted Jasperson and a locksmith Followill hired to change the locks.

From the beginning, she admitted shooting Thrift, but claimed it was self-defense.

In her videotaped interview, Followill said Dec. 2 was the fourth time Thrift had beaten her since he moved into the house in July.

She claimed they had been arguing over finances. Followill said Thrift, a Marine veteran of the war in Iraq, was unemployed but received monthly disability.

On the day he died, she said they had fought early in the morning; he went for a walk, and within an hour, she called a locksmith and had the doors rekeyed.

When he came home, she had thrown all his possessions on the front lawn and ordered him out.

She said he repeatedly threatened to kill her, and she shot him once in the forehead with a 9 mm Glock handgun as he came at her.

Followill told investigators Jasperson and Nadine Chrzanowski that Thrift taunted her “to do it,” and she pulled the trigger.

During the interview, she changed her account of how the weapon ended up in the living room next to a recliner.

She said her memory was “blurred” and she thought Thrift put the weapon in the living room.

The investigators told her it made no sense for Thrift to bring the weapon to her in the living room after they’d had a physical altercation.

“I must have put it out there,” she said. “I put it in the living room out of the way of his stuff.”

When investigators asked Followill why she shot Thrift, she said: “He was going to …. kill me. I felt I needed to protect myself. I felt safe when I saw him on the floor.”

Washoe County assistant medical examiner Dr. Piotr A. Kubiczek said Thrift died of a perforating gunshot wound to the head.

He said the single bullet perforated the forehead causing extensive brain tissue laceration, fragmentation, and hemorrhaging.

Thrift was dead when deputies arrived at the residence about 11:20 a.m.

Kubiczek said Thrift had traces of OxyContin and Xanax in his system, but no alcohol.

Followill, on probation for a driving under the influence conviction, had a blood-alcohol content of .177, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Nevada.

Although Followill was not driving, she was in violation of her suspended sentence for a June 30, 2013, DUI and is serving 60 days in Douglas County Jail.

She admitted in the interview to having “five or six beers” between the time she awoke at 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, and the shooting which occurred late in the morning.

She told investigators her face hurt after Thrift battered her.

The suspect made her first court appearance Dec. 4 with a black eye and bruised lip.

Kubiczek displayed photos of Thrift with a large bite mark on his leg, scratches and bruises allegedly inflicted by Followill.

In a text to Shaun Followill, Thrift claimed the defendant bit him three times.

She told investigators that she and Thrift had no intimate relationship despite his wishes. She said they never kissed, and their physical contact was limited to an occasional “friend hug.”

When asked why she didn’t leave the residence, Followill said, “He’s just going to come after me. I kicked him out one time, and he tried to get back in the house through my bedroom window.”

An open murder charge allows a jury to determine the degree. Jurors would be instructed on first-degree, second-degree, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.