Episode 319:

Horse Camp

The Cokeville Elementary School Bombing


The Abduction of Kari Swenson


Episode 319: Horse Camp

This week, Karen and Georgia cover the Cokeville Elementary School bombing and the abduction of Kari Swenson.

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The Cokeville Elementary School Bombing

The Cokeville Elementary School Bombing Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Other Images:

Cokeville Elementary School (via King FM)

First Responders at Cokeville Elementary School (via Billings Gazette)

David Young (via Unsolved Mysteries Fandom Wiki)


"The Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis occurred on Friday, May 16, 1986 in Cokeville, Wyoming, United States, when former town marshal David Young, 43, and his wife Doris Young, 47, took 96 children and 18 adults hostage at Cokeville Elementary School.

David Young entered the school with his wife transporting a large gasoline-filled device that appeared to be a bomb. The couple corralled a large group of students and teachers into a single classroom. David attached the bomb trigger to his wrist and threatened the group that he might, at any time, move his arm and ignite the bomb.

After a two-and-a-half hour standoff, the children were becoming restless, so the teachers preoccupied the kids in the form of movies, games, prayer, and books. David became increasingly agitated, and decided to leave the room. Before leaving the room, David attached the bomb's detonation device to his wife's wrist.

When the children became increasingly loud, Doris Young began begging the teachers to settle the group down. At one point she lifted her arm sharply and the bomb went off prematurely, injuring Doris while David was out of the room. Returning to the scene, David shot his wife, a teacher, then himself. All the hostages escaped, though 79 were later hospitalized with burns and injuries, the majority of which were severe..."

— Source: Cokeville Elementary School Hostage Crisis Wikipedia

The Abduction of Kari Swenson

The Abduction of Kari Swenson Notes:

Photo by Michael Bourgault on Unsplash

Other Images:

Kari Swenson (via Great Falls Tribune)

Don Nichols, Montana Correctional Facility (via The Guardian)

Dan Nichols, Montana Correctional Facility (via Bozeman Daily Chronicles)


"Twenty-seven years ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July, Kari Swenson went for a run on a forest trail near Big Sky, hoping to spot a grizzly bear she heard was in the area. She had always wanted to see one.

Instead of encountering the rare animal, she happened upon something perhaps much scarier.

Two men, grungy and armed with rifles and knives, appeared out of the woods and blocked her way.

“We just want to talk to you for a while. We don’t get many women up in the mountains to talk to,” the older man told Swenson, then 22 years old and recently graduated from Montana State University.

Swenson was trapped.

“I was concerned they were going to rape and murder me,” Swenson later testified. “They said they wouldn’t, but I didn’t believe them at all.”

What had started as a scenic run on a beautiful afternoon on July 15, 1984, turned into a bizarre nightmare that captured the world’s attention and resulted in the death of one man.

Swenson, an Olympic biathlete — a sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship — was pretty, with blue eyes, freckles and waist-length auburn hair.

The “mountain men” she encountered, father and son, Don and Dan Nichols, had reportedly been living in the rugged Madison Range for 12 summers and all of 1984. They poached wild game and camped in the woods. At one point, they kept a coyote puppy as a pet.

“Dad didn’t believe in the system — society, civilization,” Dan, then 20, testified at his trial in Virginia City in 1985. “When I was about 7, we drove to the mountains near Ennis for about two months. I learned how to live in the mountains.

“(Dad) taught me how to cope … how to hunt, stay alive in the winter, make things pleasant,” Dan said. “Living in the mountains is a natural way of life. In society, you go to work, get money and buy food. In the mountains, you go get your food. You don’t go through the machine of society.”

Dan’s father, Don, then 54, preferred the isolated wilderness, but he needed some form of human company.

Don and Dan had hatched a plan to kidnap a woman. Don reportedly told Swenson he needed her to keep his son in the mountains.

The father and son kept women’s clothing in supply caches hidden in the mountains. They discussed how to tie a woman up with a chain..."

— Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle article by Amanda Ricker