A Flathead Valley man who pleaded guilty to stabbing his boyfriend to death more than a year ago will spend the next several years in the Montana State Prison after he was sentenced Wednesday.
Flathead County District Court Judge Robert Allison sentenced Ryan Cody Lamb, 35, of Whitefish, to 10 years in prison.
Lamb entered a plea of guilty by way of Alford to negligent homicide Dec. 11, 2019, in relation to the death of 31-year-old Ryan Nixon.
Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner said his office was asking for a 10-year sentence to the Montana State Prison. Lamb’s attorney, Emily Lamson, sought a 10 year-suspended sentence.
The sentence brings an end to a case that has seen a number of twists and turns that included a hung jury and mistrial following a nine-day trial in June 2019. Lamson sought a dismissal of the charges, but that was denied by Judge Allison.
Emotions ran high in the courtroom Wednesday as dozens of friends and family attended the hearing.
Nixons’s mother, Lynn Nixon, and father, Randy Nixon, as well as his younger sister, Amber Nixon Pederson, were among those who spoke about how they felt about their son.
“What kind of person are you?” Lynn Nixon asked as she glared at Lamb. “He would have never done this to you. Shame on you! Honestly, shame on you Ryan Lamb!!
She continued, saying “I’ve seen no sympathy, no regret. My son is in an urn in my home and that’s all I have left.”
Randy Nixon said the murder of his son has left the family in a bad place.
“None of you have a clue what we’re going through, sometimes I don’t even know how I feel,” Randy said. “We all tried to help you. I just don’t know how you sit there with your attorneys, how you made us go through this?”
Amber Nixon Pederson was Nixon’s baby sister.
“Look at this room, it’s filled with his friends and family,” Pederson said. “For people to say Ryan [Nixon] was abusive is ridiculous! He was always the life of the party.
“You used my family, especially my mother,” Pederson continued. “She gave you a roof over your head, food and money to gamble and you never appreciated it ... You brutally stabbed him. That’s not love, that’s hate, that’s rage.”
Lamb, standing at the defense counsel table between public defenders Lamson and Alisha Backus, spoke briefly.
“Sometimes, I wish I had let him kill me that night, but I defended myself,” Lamb said. “I have no desire to return to Montana. I’m not a threat to anyone or society. I have no more faith living here (Montana) as a gay man than I did in the 1990s.”
Lamb trumpeted his completion of a 13-week treatment program and his enrollment in a six-to-nine month program at a facility in Portland, Oregon.
Patty Kennelly, a mental-health worker, was the only person to speak on Lamb’s behalf.
She explained meeting Lamb at North Valley Hospital in February 2018 after he described having suicidal thoughts.
“I then saw him five times between Feb. 5, 2018, and mid-March 2018, and then I saw him again in the Flathead County Detention Center on the day of the incident,” Kennelly said. “He (Lamb) has had a lot of contradictory feelings.
“He loved Ryan, but he felt he wasn’t going to survive the relationship,” Kennelly said.
Kennelly said she believes Lamb isn’t a threat to anyone in society.
Flathead County Deputy Attorney Alison Howard then asked Kennelly if she felt Lamb was a threat when he used drugs or alcohol.
“Not to anyone except himself,” Kennelly said.
Howard talked about how Lamb had used methamphetamine and alcohol in September 2019 while he waited to see how his case would go.
“Knowing he had a pending charge, he still chose to participate in felonius activity,” Howard said.
Kalispell Police said Lamb stabbed Nixon with a pair of scissors during a sexual encounter at a Two Mile Drive apartment complex in Kalispell during the early-morning hours of Aug. 5, 2018.
Lamb stood trial in June 2019 on a charge of deliberate homicide.
Kalispell Police Detective Jim Wardensky said he hopes the Nixon family can find some peace.
“I trust the judgment and wisdom of Judge Allison, but first and foremost, I hope the Nixon family can find peace,” Wardensky said. “In retrospect, I’m proud of the investigation we did.”
Defense attorneys said Lamb acted in self-defense because he feared for his life after Nixon poked him repeatedly with a fork.
Judge Allison declared a mistrial June 14, 2019, after jurors couldn’t decide on a verdict after 13 hours of deliberations. Jurors first voted 8-4 for not guilty, then 11-1.
Flathead County prosecutors filed an amended charge of negligent homicide, as well as the original charge of deliberate homicide, on Aug. 1. Lamb pleaded not guilty Aug. 21 to both the amended and original charges.
Backus, representing Lamb, filed a number of motions for acquittal, violation of the double jeopardy clause and to dismiss the case for a lack of probable cause.
But Judge Allison, in a series of rulings between Aug. 28 and Sept. 6, denied each motion.
On Sept. 16, 2019, Greg Rapkoch of the county Public Defender’s Office filed a petition for writ of supervisory control to appeal Judge Allison’s decision to not dismiss the case on the double jeopardy clause.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled against that appeal.
Lamb faced a prison term of 10 to 100 years if he would have been convicted on the deliberate homicide charge. A conviction on the negligent homicide charge could have resulted in a 20-year term in Montana State Prison.