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Victim, suspects named in Bowman motel murder

Bowman police chief Charles Headley addresses the media on Tuesday. ( Forum News Service photo by Kalsey Stults)1 / 3
Chase Swanson2 / 3
Madison West3 / 3

BOWMAN, N.D.— The man found dead Saturday in a Bowman motel has been identified as Nicholas Johnson, 23, of Rhame, a small town just outside of the far southwest North Dakota city.

Bowman Police Chief Charles Headley said during a press conference Tuesday that he wouldn’t share specifics about the cause of Johnson’s death, but said three people -- two of whom worked at the El-Vu Motel, where Johnson was found dead -- were arrested last weekend in Colorado on suspicion of homicide.

Chase Swanson, 21 and Madison West, 26, a couple from Bowman, and Todd Pashano, 28, from Minnesota, are being held at a correctional facility in Denver until they are extradited to Bowman in early September.

Police did not immediately know what city in Minnesota Pashano was from.

“A violent tragedy has occurred in our community,” Bowman City Commission President Lyn James said. “We don’t know the facts yet. We don’t know what happened for sure that night, and until we do let’s concentrate on what we do know. We have lost a young man, a friend, a neighbor and a son from our community. For now, let’s do what Bowman County does best and give comfort to our grieving and help those who need it most, and support those who are doing their best.”

Swanson and West lived and worked at the El-Vu Motel. Pashano was a motel guest when the murder occurred.

El-Vu Motel workers found Johnson’s body in a pool of blood on Saturday while doing housekeeping and police were dispatched to the motel around noon, Headley said. The Bowman Ambulance Service was the first on the scene.

Headley said when police arrived at the scene, they found the circumstances of Johnson’s death to be suspicious and then determined that West and Swanson, who were living in Room 25 where the body was found, were missing.

Headley said the focus of the investigation then turned to finding Swanson and West, who were tracked to Cheyenne, Wyo., through help from law enforcement agents in Wyoming and Colorado.

West and Swanson have both have a history of run-ins with the law.

West has an open felony case against her from events that occurred in July. She has been charged with felon in possession of a firearm, theft of property, prohibited alteration in handgun, and simple assault -- domestic violence.

Swanson has a string of charges against him as well. The most recent is an inactive felony case for aggravated assault, terrorizing, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Johnson had traffic violations and misdemeanors on his record.

No records could immediately be found for Pashano.

Bowman resident Mandy Stedman it’s sad that the alleged crime involved Bowman residents.

“These guys were homegrown that did this,” she said. “You know, this is our hometown people that did this and it’s going to hit harder than some random person just coming through town killing somebody.”

Stedman said Johnson was a good man and his whole family are God-fearing people.

“Johnson was a good guy and didn't deserve this,” she said.

Headley added that he is confident and pleased with the investigation thus far and said police are working to “seek out the justice that is deserved for the family and the victim.”