On Friday, June 15, a superior court jury returned a verdict of guilty on all 21 counts in the trial of Christopher George Nichols, 26, of Colville. He was convicted of nine counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm; nine counts of Theft of a Firearm, and one count each of Residential Burglary, Auto Theft and Trafficking in Stolen Property in the First Degree. The trial lasted all week.
His conviction was the last of all persons connected to the murder last July of Colville resident Gordon Feist. Mr. Feist was killed by Eric Booth as he was taking Booth, Jesse Fellman-Shimmin and Collette Pierce back to their car after a botched burglary or robbery attempt in which they knocked on Feist’s door late at night and claimed they were out of gas. The guns they carried and the one used in the killing were stolen by Booth and Nichols in the burglary of another county residence about one month earlier.
Booth had previously pleaded guilty to 1st degree Murder and received 26.5 years; Fellman-Shimmin and Pierce had each pleaded guilty to Second Degree Murder and received 25 years and 15 years respectively. All three of them testified at the trial about their involvement in the killing of Mr. Feist and the fact that Fellman-Shimmin had assisted in opening the gun safe that Booth and Nichols had stolen which contained all the weapons. The jury also heard testimony that Nichols also met the three of them at Rocky Lake shortly after the murder and gave them advice and assistance. The office had considered charging Nichols for his involvement after the murder of Mr. Feist, but we decided the technical elements of Rendering Criminal Assistance would be difficult to prove. Mr. Nichols turned down opportunities to plead guilty and accept his responsibility for his crimes.
Nichols will face sentencing under the Hard Time for Armed Crime act that was passed in 1995. This act followed the “three strikes and you’re out” law passed in 1994. It is targeted at convicted felons who arm themselves to commit more violent crimes. It increases the penalties for armed crime and provides that the firearm sentences of convicted felons shall be consecutive. The constitutionality of this law has been upheld many times.
Deputy Prosecutor Lech Radzimski represented the State in this trial and Spokane attorney Bevin Maxey represented Nichols. Sentencing is set for August 7.