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Bowman motel room murder victim allegedly beat with rachet, strangled

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Madison Beth West2 / 3
Chase Swanson3 / 3

BOWMAN, N.D. —The three people arrested in connection to the alleged motel room murder of 23-year-old Nicholas Johnson in Bowman last week have been charged in Southwest District Court—but not for murder.

Chase Swanson, 21, of Bowman, and Madison West, 26, of Bowman, were charged Thursday with aggravated assault, a Class C felony, related to Johnson's death after allegedly hitting Johnson in the head with a rachet and using a belt as a garrote to strangle him.

The third person arrested, Todd Pashano, 28, of Kingman, Ariz., was charged with hindering law enforcement because, a criminal complaint states, he delayed the discovery or apprehension of Swanson and West by his failure to call 911 after discovering they had allegedly committed homicide. That raised the charge to a class C felony.

Bowman Police Chief Charles Headley stated the reason Swanson and West were charged with a lesser crime was to obtain an arrest of the three immediately.

"Essentially, those will be amended when they are brought back," he said. "We just wanted to hurry up and get them detained."

Swanson and West are being held in a Denver correctional facility on the aggravated assault charges, but will face murder charges in early September when they are extradited to Bowman County, he said.

Johnson, who was from nearby rural Rhame, was found dead shortly before noon Saturday by workers at the El-Vu Motel south of Bowman on U.S. Highway 85. His body was found in a pool of blood, according to Bowman police. When police arrived, they focused on finding the residents of Room 25—West and Swanson—where Johnson's body was found.

While authorities believe West and Swanson are dating, in Aug. 17 court records from a different case, West stated that she lived alone in Room 25 of the motel.

Along with help from other state agencies, Bowman police were able to track down Swanson, West and Pashano en route to Colorado driving Johnson's truck.

Swanson and West have prior criminal charges in Bowman County, the most recent stemming from events this summer.

Swanson was arrested in June for hitting an acquaintance in the face with a steel rebar and threatening to kill the the victim during the altercation.

According to court documents, he stated he at that time he was a farmer on his family farm, Swanson Farms. It's believed at the time of Johnson's death, however, Swanson and West were both employees of the El-Vu Motel.

In July, West had allegedly assaulted relatives in Bowman and caused bodily injuries to their arms and face. Court records state family members believed West was a "danger to herself and others stemming from her drug induced outbursts."

During the visit, police found a .22-caliber rifle that had been shortened to a length of 32 inches. The serial number of the rifle had also been ground off. The firearm had been reported stolen and the owner of the gun correctly identified it as having been stolen from his vehicle in June.

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