Dad accused of pushing girlfriend off cliff for life insurance money pleads guilty — and avoids prison

The suspect’s lawyer called the plea deal “an amazing outcome”

A man accused of killing the young mother of his child pleaded guilty to homicide charges in a deal that gave him credit for jail time already served.

Stephen Nichols had been charged with murder in the 2009 death of 23-year-old Rhonda Casto, the mother of their then-infant child. Casto died when she fell from a narrow, muddy hiking trail in Oregon, plunging 100 feet down.

Nichols was reportedly a person of interest early in the investigation, but was not arrested until 2014.

According to the Bend Bulletin, Nichols pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and coercion in connection to Casto’s death, carrying a sentence of three years probation, and the seven months he had already served in jail.

Not long before her death, Casto reportedly increased her life insurance policy to leave $1 million to Nichols, and he he tried to collect it after her death, before eventually agreeing to split it with her mother.

As Crime Online previously reported, Casto told her mother that Nichols had been pressuring her to go on a hike.

“He’s either gonna give me a ring or he’s gonna throw me off the cliff,” Castro reportedly said in jest.

Nichols called 911 after Casto fell, but after a significant delay, according to Bend Bulletin. He reportedly also made incriminating statements during a police inquisition in 2015, but in March, a judge ruled those statements were inadmissible, on the grounds that officers had continued to question Nichols after he invoked his right to avoid self-incrimination.

A month before that, Nichols was charged with the rape and sodomy of an underage girl. According to the Bend Bulletin, Nichols pled guilty to two additional felony charges as part of his plea deal, but it is not known if those were related to the juvenile sexual assault case.

Nichols’s attorney told People magazine he was happy with the outcome.

“It was a long time coming,” Mike Arnold told People. “It is an amazing outcome. It is not every day that somebody charged with murder ends up with criminally negligent homicide and a probation sentence.”


Photo: Facebook/Justice for Rhonda