Not guilty: Sequim man enters plea to second-degree murder charge in birthday party killing

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A trial date for a Sequim man accused in the shooting death of a Port Angeles man at a birthday party is expected to be set Tuesday.

Nathaniel Darren Olson, 27, on Friday pleaded not guilty in Clallam County Superior Court to a single count of second-degree murder with an aggravated circumstance in the death of Matthew R. Baker, 25.

Baker was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest at a home at 1523 Monroe Road at about 12:40 a.m. May 22.

Olson, who remained in the county jail Saturday, is expected to be back in Superior Court at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the setting of a trial date.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge George Wood lowered Olson’s bail from $500,000 to $75,000, with conditions, after Port Angeles defense attorney Karen Unger argued that Olson’s bail should be reduced to $50,000.

Unger said the court should have initially considered a number of factors in setting bail, including Olson’s lack of felony criminal history, his steady job as a geoduck diver and his family ties to Clallam County.

If released, Olson has family, including his fiancee, who would ensure he returns for future court hearings, Unger said.

“My client has nowhere to go. His family is here,” Unger said.

Will Payne, Clallam County prosecuting attorney, objected to Unger’s request, citing the seriousness of the charge and potential danger to the community.

In response to Unger’s motion to lower bail, Payne filed a Clallam County Sheriff’s Office report of a woman telling Sequim police last year that she felt threatened after an encounter with Olson, who had a gun.

In the report, the woman also told police then that she knew Olson to be an “angry drunk” based on past encounters, according to the report.

Deputies reported that Olson appeared to be heavily intoxicated when he was taken into custody at the Monroe Road home May 22.

“We ask the court not to reduce bail in this case beyond what has already been done,” Payne said.

During Olson’s first court appearance, Payne had initially requested Olson’s bail be set at $1 million.

Wood said he was less concerned with Olson’s willingness to return if released than his access to other firearms he owns and his apparent “drinking issue.”

Wood ultimately agreed to lower bail as long as Olson meets specific conditions.

These include Olson wearing a device that would detect if he has been drinking, staying away from establishments where alcohol is the chief item of sale and that he surrender his firearms to the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies called to the Monroe Road home said they found both Olson and Baker lying on the living room floor.

Baker, who was on his back near the front door with a single gunshot wound to his chest, was pronounced dead by paramedics at the home.

Witnesses told deputies that Baker and Olson were alone in the living room.

Jason Holden — who was celebrating his birthday with his twin, Jeremy, at the house owned by his father — said he saw a black pistol next to Olson’s leg after hearing a bang at about midnight.

“Jason asked Nathaniel what happened, and Nathaniel responded by saying, ‘I shot him,’” Sheriff’s Detective Brian Knutson wrote in his report on the incident.

Sgt. Randy Pieper with the Sheriff’s Office found a .45-caliber Sig Sauer 191 model handgun on the dining room table on the second floor of the home.

Ron Cameron, chief criminal deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that information deputies received last week shows the handgun was registered to Olson.

A witness told deputies that Olson had displayed the pistol earlier in the evening May 21.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 07. 2014 6:37PM
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