Ryan Lamb, Kalispell Man Accused of Murdering Partner, Takes the Stand in His Own Defense

Defendant alleges his partner, Ryan Nixon, verbally and physically assaulted him during their three-year relationship

By Justin Franz
Ryan Lamb wipes away tears as he gives his testimony in Flathead County District Court on day six of his trial. Ryan 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

Ryan Lamb, the Kalispell man accused of stabbing his partner to death while having sex last August, took the stand in his own defense on Monday.

Lamb testified that his partner, Ryan Nixon, verbally and physically assaulted him during their three-year relationship.

Lamb, 34, is charged with felony deliberate homicide. Prosecutors allege that Lamb stabbed Nixon, 31, to death while having sex on Aug. 5, 2018. But the defense team is painting a different picture in which Nixon was an abusive partner, and Lamb stabbed him because he was being attacked with a fork.

On Monday morning, lead prosecutor Alison Howard rested her case after five days of testimony. The jury then exited the room and defense attorney Alisha Backus filed a motion to dismiss the case. In her motion, Backus said the state had failed to provide enough evidence that Lamb had stabbed Nixon to death while having sex. At the core of her argument was the fact that other than Lamb’s jailhouse confession — which the defense has said was questionable at best — there is no evidence to prove that Lamb and Nixon were having sex when the stabbing occurred. Judge Robert Allison denied the motion.

The defense’s first witness was Dr. Richard Leo, a professor at the University of San Francisco, who is one of the world’s leading experts in police interrogation efforts.

Leo testified that he had reviewed the 11-hour interrogation video and saw examples of police interrogation techniques that could lead to a false or unreliable confession. Among the issues Leo brought up was the fact that Lamb was left in the booking room for 11 hours and was possibly sleep deprived; that the detective questioning him at times minimized the possible consequences of Lamb’s actions; and that the detective made implied promises, specifically one where the police would treat Lamb better if he told the truth.

“The primary goal (of an interrogation) is to get an incriminating statement from someone,” Leo said. “The secondary goal is to get the truth.”

During cross-examination, County Attorney Travis Ahner asked how much Leo was being paid for his time reviewing the case and testifying. Leo said that he had charged the public defenders office approximately $10,000.

Late in the afternoon, Lamb took the stand in his own defense. Lamb testified that he and Nixon had met in 2015 on a dating app and quickly became friends. Lamb said he initially was reluctant to enter a relationship — mostly because Nixon was apparently still dating someone — but that Nixon was persistent. They began dating in late 2015.

During his testimony, Lamb smiled and laughed while talking about the high points of his relationship with Nixon. At other times, he began to cry when talking about the low points.

Lamb said the relationship took a turn for the worse in 2016, when Nixon became verbally and physically abusive. Lamb said that Nixon was jealous of his friendships with other people.

Lamb testified that on at least two occasions he went to the hospital because of injuries he suffered at the hand of Nixon. In one instance, Nixon had punched him in the face, resulting in a split eyebrow. In another instance, Nixon had slammed a car door on Lamb’s foot.

Backus presented medical records as evidence of the hospital visits. When pressed by doctors about what happened, Lamb said he had fallen. When asked why he did not tell the truth, he said he was scared and did not want Nixon to get in trouble.

“I did not want to get into an argument,” he said.

Lamb also testified that Nixon would sometimes lock him in a room — restraining the door with rope — and scream at him from the outside. One time, Nixon allegedly sprayed a wasp killer under the door.

“He would yell at me and tell me that I’m worthless,” Lamb said.

“It was a dark time.”

Testimony will continue on Tuesday.