PLEA ENTERED IN AUNT’S DEATH — (The Evansville Courier)

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The Evansville Courier (IN)

January 26, 1999

Author: DAVE HOSICK, Courier & Press staff writer, 464-7449 or []

An Evansville man avoided a murder trial Monday by accepting a plea agreement in the slaying of his aunt.   Eric Ryan Nicholson, 23, has agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the Jan. 10, 1998, death of his aunt, Melody Trent, according to Nicholson’s attorney, Jeff Lantz.

Lantz said the agreement calls for a 45-year prison term. Nicholson could have faced 65 years if convicted on the original charges of murder and auto theft.  “This is an agreement we worked out with the prosecutor’s office after presenting all the facts in the case,” Lantz said. Prosecutors will also drop two other outstanding cases against Nicholson, he said, both of which are unrelated to the slaying.

Trent’s body was found on the floor of her apartment at 1617 N. Seventh Ave., which she had been sharing with Nicholson for about two weeks. Court records indicate her throat was cut, she was stabbed four times and hit over the head with a blunt object at least six times.

Nicholson was arrested the day after the slaying at his parents’ home . He later described the slaying as an accident, saying he tried to protect himself after his aunt struck him in the head with a skillet during an argument.   “She was out to kill me,” Nicholson said in his statement to police.

Nicholson said he grabbed the skillet from Trent and hit her a few times in the head to “knock her out,” but Trent kept struggling. He then grabbed a knife “just to scare her” and eventually cut her throat and stabbed her, according to court records.

Nicholson said he then ingested more than 60 prescription pills, including anti-depressants, that he had stolen from his aunt after the slaying. Other family members said Trent and Nicholson had argued previously about him stealing her medication.

Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco was out of town and unavailable to discuss the agreement. Deputy Prosecutor Robert Zoss could not be reached.