Man accused of pushing girlfriend off cliff seeks bail money fro - KPTV - FOX 12

Man accused of pushing girlfriend off cliff seeks bail money from crowdfunding

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Rhonda Casto (KPTV) Rhonda Casto (KPTV)
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

Hood River prosecutors say Stephen Nichols pushed his girlfriend, Rhonda Casto, off a cliff and killed her while hiking in 2009, now his May trial has been pushed back and because of it he's asking for lower bail.

The victim's family in Beaverton said they're outraged Nichols has any chance of getting out of jail.

"It shakes me up, to think...everything about this shakes me up," said Christine Simmons, Casto's aunt.

Nichols pushed Casto to her death off a cliff while hiking a popular Columbia River Gorge trail in 2009. The death was first ruled accidental but for years prosecutors secretly worked the case that has been pushed by family members looking for answers.

"I know it wasn't an accident, going hiking in March in the rain, it just didn't sit right with me," said Simmons.

In 2014, prosecutors finally decided to charge Nichols with murder, and police arrested him at a San Francisco airport last year.

Nichols pleaded not guilty and a judge agreed to let him go free until trial begins if he comes up with two million-dollars bail.

This month, Nichols' lawyers will ask to have that bail reduced. In the meantime, they've turned to crowdfunding online to raise bail money but have collected only about $500 from 14 donors.

Attorney Mike Arnold says scientific evidence will prove Nichols' innocence and getting his client out of jail to prepare for trial is crucial.

Casto's aunt says she both looks forward to and dreads the upcoming trial.

"It still hurts, it still stings. We're still fighting for you Rhonda. We think about you all the time," Simmons said.

Nichols has a 7-year-old daughter with Casto. If Nichols is released on bail, it's unclear if he'll be able to see his daughter.

Nichols will have to wear an electric-monitoring bracelet and forfeit his passport.

The bail hearing is set for later this month.

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