A long history of domestic abuse between two Kalispell men culminated last August in the stabbing death of 31-year-old Ryan Nixon. The question of who is at fault in that death is now before a jury.
On Monday, June 3, a 14-person jury was seated to hear the case against 34-year-old Ryan Lamb, who has been charged with a single count of felony deliberate homicide. Prosecutors say Lamb has a violent history and stabbed Nixon during sex. But the defense argues that Nixon was the real aggressor and stabbed Lamb 16 times with a fork in a fit of jealous rage early on the morning of Aug. 5, 2018. Defense attorney Alisha Backus said that during that assault, Lamb stabbed Nixon in self-defense.
If convicted, Lamb could be sentenced to life in prison. Attorneys have said they believe the case will take more than two weeks to present to the jury.
Attorneys spent much of the first day of the trial whittling down a jury pool that numbered well over 100 to just 12 jurors and two alternates who will hear the case. After the jury was seated, lead prosecutor, Deputy County Attorney Alison Howard, and Backus were each given time to present an opening statement to the jury to shape the presentation of evidence and testimony jurors will see and hear in the coming weeks.
Howard said Lamb and Nixon had been dating each other for three years and shared an apartment in Kalispell on Two Mile Drive. They also worked together at a local sports bar. According to the prosecutor, the two men had a troubled relationship and Lamb had hurt Nixon in the past.
“You will hear that the defendant enjoys violent sex and that Nixon and Lamb liked to inflict pain on each other during sex,” Howard said.
According to prosecutors, it was during one of those incidents that Lamb stabbed Nixon three times with a pair of scissors.
Afterwards, at around 3 a.m., Lamb apparently left the apartment and went to a local gas station to call North Valley Hospital where his parents had worked in the past. After failing to reach his parents, Lamb returned to his apartment and called 911 to report that Nixon, who he referred to as his husband even though they were not married, had multiple “poke wounds” in his torso.
Law enforcement responded to the apartment where they found a “frantic and distraught” Lamb, and Nixon deceased in the shower. Lamb was placed in handcuffs and led out of the apartment.
Lamb told officers that he had come home from work and found Nixon injured and unconscious. Later, Lamb told the same officers that he believed Nixon’s ex-boyfriend attacked the man. Investigators later learned that Nixon’s ex-boyfriend was not in the Kalispell area at the time of the stabbing. Lamb was taken to the Kalispell Police Department for further questioning. During that questioning, Lamb allegedly confessed to killing Nixon during sex.
Howard said that the inconsistent stories prove that Lamb killed Nixon.
“You don’t need to lie if you if you have nothing to hide,” Howard said. “So why did Ryan Lamb spin such an elaborate tale?”
But Lamb’s defense attorney said the inconsistent stories were the result of distress and officers who interrogated him for approximately 11 hours coerced the confession out of him.
In Backus’ version of events, Nixon was the aggressor and Lamb had grabbed a pair of scissors to protect himself from his boyfriend, who had accused him of making advances toward another man. In Backus’ version of events, Lamb never meant to hurt Nixon.
“Ryan Lamb made a split second decision to protect himself,” she said.
After opening statements, the jury heard from two witnesses — a 911-center dispatcher and a responding officer — the first of dozens that are expected to take the stand in the coming days.
The jury heard the 911 call that Lamb made shortly after 3 a.m. on Aug. 5. In it, Lamb is screaming and is at times incoherent.
“Please help me!” he screams.
“What do I do?”
“There is so much blood.”
While the 911 call was played in court, Lamb sobbed at the defense table.
The jury also witnessed footage from a responding officer’s body camera. In the footage, Lamb meets the officers in the front yard of the apartment and leads them inside where they find Nixon in the bathtub with the water running down on him. Lamb is hysterical as he’s placed in handcuffs and led to a police vehicle for questioning.
Testimony will continue on Tuesday morning.