Boyfriend charged in 2009 death of Portland woman

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Rhonda Casto Murder 2_16_15_122464

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — Police have arrested a Bend man for allegedly murdering his girlfriend five years ago in a case that was originally ruled an accidental death.

Stephen Nichols shown in an undated jail booking photo.

Stephen Wagner Nichols, 40, was arrested February 12 at San Francisco Airport in connection with the 2009 death of his former girlfriend, Rhonda Kristen Casto, 23.

Casto died while she was hiking with Nichols on March 16, 2009. At the time, police thought she slipped and fell to her death on the popular Eagle Creek Trail west of Cascade Locks.

According to a Hood River News report, police received a call shortly after 6 p.m. from a man who said he had accompanied Casto on a hike. He informed 911 operators Casto had died after falling off a cliff.

Rescuers arrived at the scene and found Casto’s body down an embankment approximately 100 feet off the trail. Reports at the time did not identify the male caller and circumstances of Casto’s death were never further discussed.

A secret indictment filed in April 2014, ultimately charged Nichols with the death of Casto. Nichols was arraigned at the Hood River County Courthouse late Friday morning. He is currently on a no-bail hold and faces a minimum of 25 years in prison, with a maximum life sentence. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 3 at 11 a.m.

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