Matthew Nilsson ordered held without bail for allegedly choking ex-girlfriend unconscious
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A Quechee man who allegedly strangled his ex-girlfriend, stole her car and then ditched it near Exit 1 late Saturday afternoon before eluding police on foot for nearly nine hours was eventually arrested and brought into court Monday.
Matthew Nilsson, 25, pleaded innocent to a felony count of aggravated first degree domestic assault and to accompanying misdemeanor charges of interference with access to emergency services, negligent operation of a vehicle, and to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
Nilsson, who has previous convictions for domestic assault on his record, was ordered held without bail.
Vermont State Police troopers were called out just before 6 p.m. on Saturday after a bloodied woman knocked on the door of the Potter residence on Route 14 in Sharon and told startled homeowner Darryl Potter that she had just been choked unconscious by her ex-boyfriend down by the edge of the White River, according to an affidavit filed with the court by Trooper Jonathan Duncan.
Emma Seaver, 24, told arriving troopers that she and Nilsson had recently broken up and he was planning to take a trip to Belize so he reached out to her and they decided to perform “a closing ritual” for their relationship.
Seaver wrote in a sworn statement that she picked him up at his residence in Quechee and drove him to a pull-off by the river with some stones, an animal skull, mushrooms and other totemic items for the ceremony.
“We drove there in my car and left it running because I told him this had to be be brief,” Seaver wrote.
“He laid out the stones (sand, rocks, a skull, some wood and a wishbone) and asked me if I wanted to smoke a cigarette with him before we left. I said ‘No’,” Seaver wrote, continuing “I asked if there was anything else he would like to say and he said ‘I hope we can both learn from this.’ He then took me by the neck and pushed me to the ground.”
“I tried to pull his hands away and was successful once. I pulled his hair and kicked his crotch and bit his finger. He told me not to scream and he put his hand over my mouth. I truly thought that I was going to die. When I woke up I was in a puddle of water. I couldn’t find my phone or glasses. I went up the trail back to my running car (but) it was gone so I went to the nearest driveway and asked a pair of strangers for help.”
Vermont State Police photo
Trooper Duncan described Seaver as wet and shivering from the cold and said she had a large amount of dried blood smeared on her cheeks, red marks on her neck, small lacerations on her lip and hands and scratches on her back, all of which state police documented with a camera before she was taken to the hospital by a South Royalton Rescue ambulance.
Troopers walked outside to look at the pull-off on Route 14 and noted “deep fresh tire tracks in the ice and snow that showed someone had left heading north on Route 14 in an aggressive manner” when suddenly they spotted Seaver’s brown Honda CRV being driven back past them heading south.
The troopers dashed for their cruisers and began trying to catch up to the vehicle, radioing ahead to Hartford Police officers to also be on the lookout for it.
Hartford Police Corporal Dan Solomita spotted the Honda about 6:30 p.m. heading past him on Old River Road but said that when he turned around to stop it the driver accelerated away at an estimated 80 miles per hour.
“This was a dirt roadway which was almost entirely iced over,” Solomita wrote in his report, adding “Road conditions were deplorable making the manner in which the vehicle was operated even more reckless.”
A short time later, Solomita found the Honda abandoned at the end of the roadway which runs through the Merrimack Circle trailer park.
State Police brought in “Phoenix,” one of their tracking dogs, and the canine led officers up onto the edge of nearby Interstate 89 and down toward Exit 1 and the Quechee Mobil gas station.
Numerous police officers scoured the area for the rest of the evening and at about 3 a.m. Nilsson was located and taken into custody.
During Monday afternoon’s arraignment, Nilsson’s defense attorney asked the court to consider releasing him under strict conditions to live with a family friend who has a farm in New Hampshire while his case is pending.
Judge Elizabeth Mann declined to release Nilsson and ordered him held without bail although she left the door open a crack, saying she would be willing to reconsider if a “plan” to ensure compliance with pre-trial release conditions could be crafted in the future.
Nilsson, whose previous convictions for domestic assaults were in 2015, faces a maximum potential penalty of up to 19 years in prison, if he were to be convicted of all the charges now pending against him.
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