Testimony reveals troubled relationship

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Testimony in the fourth day of the Ryan Lamb murder trial continued to expose a troubled, sometimes violent, relationship between the defendant and the man who wanted out of it.

Lamb is accused of stabbing his boyfriend, Ryan Nixon, to death with a pair of scissors during a fight in Nixon’s Two Mile Drive apartment in the early hours of Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018.

Family members and friends of Nixon testified Thursday morning in Flathead County District Court that Nixon wanted to and, at times, did leave Lamb but repeatedly returned to the relationship.

“Ryan was the perfect little child, he was a good little kid and he had lots of friends,” Randy A. Nixon, the victim’s father, said. “He was respectful, he’d give you the shirt off his back.”

Deputy County Attorney Alison Howard asked Randy Nixon about his son’s first romantic relationship. Ryan Nixon and David De La Rosa dated for about 13 years. They met in California before coming to Libby.

Their relationship ended in 2015 after De La Rosa said he learned Nixon was with Lamb. Despite the circumstances, De La Rosa said they maintained a friendship and Randy Nixon characterized their relationship as good.

“It was good, not physical or argumentative,” Randy Nixon said. “He lived with us in Libby and I’m still close to him.”

Randy Nixon said after his son’s relationship with De La Rosa ended in 2015, he met Lamb. He explained that his son lived at home and took care of his horses and mules while he worked in North Dakota running heavy equipment. After his son met Lamb, Lamb moved into the Nixon home.

“I liked Lamb,” Randy Nixon said. “He was respectful, he worked for me at times and I treated him like a son.”

But then, the elder Nixon saw what he said was another side of Lamb.

“Later in the relationship, I saw bruises on his arms and face,” Randy Nixon said. “He didn’t tell me where they came from, but I told him I thought Ryan [Lamb] did the injuries to him. Ryan later told me that if he was killed or had major injuries, to look for Ryan Lamb.”

Then, in March 2018, Ryan Nixon told his father he was concerned Lamb might kill him. In July 2018, Randy and his second wife were in Kalispell for her to receive cancer treatments.

“He was very happy, he told us that he had kicked Ryan [Lamb] out July 29,” Randy Nixon said. “I was relieved. It was the last time I saw him alive.”

Randy Nixon was working on Aug. 5 when his boss told him his son was dead.

“My first thought was that Lamb killed him,” Nixon said.

Defense attorney Alisha Backus performed the cross examination on Randy Nixon, asking questions about how he adjusted to his son’s sexual identity.

“I loved my son and I knew I had to adjust to his sexual identity,” he said.

The father said he never saw Lamb harm Nixon, but said his son had more mood swings and started to see a counselor the last few years of the relationship.

Vicky Holzhauser, a Libby resident for the last 40 years, testified about a disturbance on the street in front of her home a month of so before Nixon’s death. She lived near the home of Lynn Nixon, Ryan’s mother. At that point both Ryan Lamb and Ryan Nixon lived with Nixon’s mother.

“I didn’t know any of them well, but I heard the hollering first,” Holzhauser said. “I heard someone telling Lamb to leave and I then heard Lamb say ‘you’ll never leave me,’” as he walked toward where she stood.

Lynn Nixon then said she heard the other man, presumably Nixon, say “At least I have a family that accepts me.”

She then said she heard Lamb say he would get him away from his mother and slit his throat, “you (expletive) faggot.”

Lynn Nixon echoed her ex-husband’s sentiments about their son during her testimony.

“He was a great kid, a joker, very passionate, a people person,” Lynn Nixon said.

She said her son’s relationship with De La Rosa was good before it ended. She described the relationship with Lamb in other terms.

“It was good and bad, depending on the drinking,” Lynn said. “If I stuck my nose in, he’d assault my son.”

She described two incidents of violence she said Lamb did to her son. She didn’t see either, but was present at the time both occurred.

“That (expletive) stabbed me in the chest with a screwdriver,” Ryan Nixon allegedly said to his mother.

She said she could see two marks from a Phillips head screwdriver in her son’s chest and she held on to the tool before giving it to Kalispell Police Detective Jim Wardensky after her son died. She also described a head-butting incident she heard in a bedroom next to hers while the three lived in her Libby residence.

“He (Nixon) had black eyes, a broken nose, a wound on his leg from a pellet gun and strangle marks on his neck, but my son didn’t want us to know what was going on,” Lynn Nixon testified.

“They always ended up back together. My son really loved Lamb.”

Lynn Nixon testified she drove Lamb and her son to Missoula in late July for a court hearing on an alleged domestic violence charge.

“I heard Lamb ask my son to not testify against him and he didn’t,” she said.

She said her son told her he had kicked Lamb out of the apartment after that hearing.

“I miss him more than you’ll ever know,” Lynn Nixon said, holding up a photo of her son as other family members cried quietly.

On cross examination by Backus, Lynn Nixon said it has been a very hard time for her because Lamb was like a part of their family.

“I loved Ryan Lamb,” she said.

Lamb faces a maximum term of life in prison.

Friday’s testimony will begin at 9 a.m. with Kalispell Police Detective Jim Wardensky, the lead investigator in the case, on the stand.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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