Testimony in Ryan Lamb Murder Trial Reveals a Troubled Relationship

Jury also hears from witnesses about hours leading up to fatal stabbing

By Justin Franz
Ryan Cody Lamb weeps during his attorney’s opening statement on the first day of his trial in Flathead County District Court on June 3, 2019. Lamb is charged with felony deliberate homicide after being accused of stabbing his partner Ryan Nixon on Aug. 5, 2018. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Local law enforcement had multiple interactions with two Kalispell men in the months leading up to last summer’s stabbing death of 31-year-old Ryan Nixon, whose partner Ryan Lamb is on trial for deliberate homicide.

On Wednesday, the third day of the 34-year-old Lamb’s murder trial, jurors heard about two separate incidents in early 2018 in which Kalispell police officers responded to physical fights between Lamb and Nixon. The jury also heard testimony from neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances of Lamb and Nixon describing emotional tumult and arguments in the hours before Nixon’s death on Aug. 5, 2018.

Lamb, who had dated Nixon for approximately three years, has been charged with a single count of felony deliberate homicide. Prosecutors have alleged that Lamb was an abusive partner who enjoyed violent sex and that he stabbed Nixon while having intercourse. The defense team is painting a different picture in which Nixon was the abusive partner, and Lamb stabbed him because he was attacking him with a fork. Evidence shows that Lamb had approximately 16 wounds from a fork in his chest.

If convicted, Lamb could spend the rest of his life in prison. The trial started Monday and is expected to last two weeks.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Kalispell police officer testified about a February 2018 incident during which Nixon and Lamb physically fought at the apartment they sometimes shared on Two Mile Drive. Officer Brooke Pokorny’s body camera showed Lamb standing outside a nearby casino crying and tending to a wound underneath his eye. Lamb told the officer Nixon threw a phone at Lamb’s face.

During the interview, the officer asked Lamb if there were problems in his relationship. Lamb said there were and that he had recently tried to break up with Nixon.

At the end of the clip from Pokorny’s body camera, the officer suggests that Lamb obtain a restraining order against Nixon.

A month later, in March 2018, police again responded to the apartment on Two Mile Drive. There they met Lamb who said his boyfriend had attacked him with a knife. Lamb exhibited a number of cuts on his throat. Nixon had already left the apartment by the time law enforcement arrived.

But the following day, Lamb went to the Kalispell Police Department and told a different version of events. During that second interview, he said he cut himself.

Officer John Fusaro testified that during the course of his investigation into that March incident he found that Lamb had previously been accused of assaulting Nixon in Missoula in 2017.

The jury also heard from people who knew the couple socially and were with them the night of Aug. 4, 2018.

Christopher Holmes of Kalispell was a regular at Rivals Bar and Casino where both Lamb and Nixon worked. Holmes testified that he had gotten to know both the victim and the defendant in the months leading up to the stabbing and described their relationship as “unhealthy.” Holmes said Lamb and Nixon’s relationship would have wild swings, from positive to very negative extremes.

Despite Lamb and Nixon’s rocky past, on Aug. 4, their relationship appeared to be going well, Holmes said. Late on the night of Aug. 4, Holmes said he was talking to both men and he asked Lamb where he was staying that night. Lamb had apparently been staying at another home rather than Nixon’s apartment because of past conflicts. Lamb said he was staying with Nixon again.

“I gave them both a hug and said, ‘I’m glad you guys are doing well,’” Holmes testified.

According to testimony and evidence, Lamb and Nixon spent much of the night of Aug. 4 working at Rivals. Late in the evening, after Lamb finished his shift, they went to Fatt Boys Bar and Grille with a co-worker. Later on, shortly after 1:30 a.m., Lamb went to the Gold Dust Casino. Nixon arrived about 10 minutes later.

In security camera footage presented to the jury, Nixon was stumbling as he entered the bar and sat next to Lamb at a gambling machine. A few minutes later, the two men left. Security camera footage in the parking lot shows Nixon and Lamb parted ways; Nixon walked north toward his apartment and Lamb appeared to walk south.

Two of the men’s neighbors at 306 Two Mile Drive also took the stand to tell the jury what they heard in the early hours of Aug. 5, 2018, when prosecutors allege Lamb stabbed Nixon.

Wanda Adamavich, the apartment manager, testified that she was in her apartment early that morning when she heard a “blood-curdling scream.”

Selam Christian lived above the two men and said she was awoken by loud noises from the downstairs apartment. At one point she also heard two distinct voices.

“You hurt me,” someone said.

“That’s because you stabbed me in the heart with a fork,” another voice said.

Adamavich said she was the one who called Nixon’s mother in Libby to tell her that there had been an incident at her son’s apartment and that she should get there as soon as possible.

“I made the most difficult call one mother could make to another mother,” she said.

The jury also heard testimony from a Montana State Crime Lab specialist who conducted the autopsy on Nixon and outlined exactly how he died. Dr. Sunil Kumar Prashar testified that Nixon appeared to be stabbed three times in the chest. Nixon also had injuries on his head, shoulder and hands. Prashar testified that the wounds on Nixon’s hands were consistent with injuries one would receive if they were defending themselves from an attack.

“What was the cause of death?” Deputy County Attorney Alison Howard asked.

“Sharp and blunt force injuries,” Prashar responded.

“What was the manner of death?” Howard asked.

“Homicide,” Prashar said.

Testimony will continue on Thursday.