By Shelby R. King

The Bulletin

A Bend man who was scheduled for trial after being charged with attempted murder has accepted a plea deal to lesser charges.

Theodore Settlemier, 45, on Thursday pleaded no contest to one count each of fourth-degree assault, strangulation and coercion. In exchange for agreeing to the plea deal, the state agreed to dismiss charges of attempted murder, unauthorized use of a weapon, menacing, interfering with making a report, attempting to elude police in a vehicle and a second count of fourth-degree assault. The state also agreed to dismiss a separate case involving one count of stalking and 31 contempt of court charges.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Moore relayed to Judge Roger DeHoog the facts in the case, stating that after a night of drinking at a local bar, Settlemier and his then-girlfriend, Natalie Nicholson, had an argument. Nicholson called 911, Moore said. Dispatchers reported hearing a woman yelling in the background, then a male voice got on the phone, said sorry and hung up.

“He held a pillow over her mouth for two minutes and said he was going to kill her,” Moore said. “She was able to get away and police found her running down the street barefoot.”

Nicholson has since left the Bend area and lives in Colorado. It is The Bulletin’s practice not to identify victims in cases like this, but Nicholson has given her permission, saying Wednesday that she wants people to know her side of the story.

Kendra Aper, a victim advocate with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Program, said Nicholson relocated because she doesn’t feel safe living near Settlemier.

The victim submitted a statement during the sentencing hearing. Because of time constraints, DeHoog chose not to read the statement aloud in court, but he entered it into the court record.

“I’m thankful every day that I was able to escape and that the 9-1-1 call went through before Ted knocked the phone out of my hand,” she wrote. “The (post-traumatic stress disorder), nightmares and flashbacks will still occur but I know in time they will lessen as this horrible chapter of my life comes to an end.”

Nicholson wrote she believes the plea bargain forces Settlemier to “suffer the consequences of his actions.”

DeHoog sentenced Settlemier to 36 months of supervision through a probation officer, effective immediately. DeHoog also sentenced Settlemier to 30 days in jail, but he was given credit for time served and will not have to report to jail. In addition, Settlemier will pay $1,747.99 in restitution and a $400 fine. As terms of his plea agreement, Settlemier will be evaluated for drug and alcohol dependency and receive an evaluation by the batterers intervention program. He is prohibited from having contact with Nicholson. On Thursday, a GPS monitoring device was removed from Settlemier’s ankle.

The coercion conviction is the only felony charge. As part of Settlemier’s plea agreement, the state agreed that if he completes all the requirements of his probation, the felony charge will be dropped to a misdemeanor.

Though Settlemier and his attorney, Erick Ward, agreed to the plea bargain, Ward said it’s an unsatisfactory ending.

“My intention was to go to trial, but what people don’t understand is how terrifying it is to face a Measure 11 charge,” Ward said. “The common conception is that no one would ever plead guilty to something they didn’t do, but if you haven’t been there and (are) staring down the barrel of a 90-month sentence, you don’t know what you’d do.”

Attempted murder in Oregon is a Measure 11 crime, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of more than seven years if the defendant is convicted.

Ward said Settlemier is disappointed but hopes he can get on with his life. Nicholson wrote that she doesn’t believe he should “have the freedom that law-abiding citizens are granted,” nor should he be allowed to hold a real estate license, which is how Settlemier makes a living.

“My family has had to take me to the emergency room, see their daughter covered in bruises being photographed by the police, take me into their home when I had nowhere else to go and pay upwards of $10,000 in legal fees due to (Settlemier’s) actions,” she wrote. “It took a near-death experience and years of unimaginable suffering to be where I am today.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com

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