Man Revisits Site of Girlfriend's Fatal Cliff Fall as Family Claims He 'Got Away With Murder'
The incident was believed to be a tragic accident, but Rhonda Casto's mom says he murdered her daughter and is "going to rot in hell for it."
An Oregon man has returned to the remote trail where his girlfriend plunged to her death nearly a decade ago.
Stephen Nichols took Inside Edition back to the spot where his aspiring model girlfriend, Rhonda Casto, fell off the 100-foot cliff along the Eagle Creek trail at Oregon's Columbia Gorge in 2009.
Her death was believed to be a tragic accident due to a rainstorm that made the trail dangerously slippery.
“I honestly never wanted to come back here so this is extremely painful,” he told Inside Edition. “I have really done everything in my power to forget about this place. It’s a chapter in my life that I wished never had happened. I really have tried to forget about it.”
The day started out sunny but quickly turned bad and a storm came through that left the trail so slick that even the most experienced hikers would have considered it hazardous, according to Nichols.
Julia Simmons, Rhonda's mother, says her daughter’s death was no accident, and blames Nichols.
She claims Nichols pushed her daughter off the cliff because she was going to leave him and take their baby daughter with her.
“He totally got away with murder,” Simmons said emphatically. "He has this sickening laugh and this little smirk about him. He doesn’t care one iota about what happened up there. I know that he remembers everything about it.”
Prosecutors alleged he pushed Simmons off the cliff to collect on a $1 million life insurance policy.
“It was [Rhonda's] idea to get the life insurance," he claimed. "In fact she had asked me three times."
Nichols added that he is surprised about the contention by Simmons' mother that he played a role in her daughter's death.
“She told me that she knew it was an accident," he said. "She told me she was angry that she lost her daughter."
Nichols was charged with Rhonda’s murder and pleaded guilty to lesser charges of criminally negligent homicide and coercion.
He was released after serving only 19 months in jail.
“Did I force her to go hiking that day? ... I didn’t," he said. "Did I force her to jump off the trail? ... I did not."
He says he does not hold himself responsible for her death, despite pleading guilty.
The victim’s mother had a chilling message for Nichols.
“Steve, you know you did it," she said. "You are a liar, a murderer and you are going to rot in hell for it."
The victim’s 8-year-old daughter is in the care of the state.
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