Teen Sentenced For Role In Milan Woman’s Death
By Mike Perleberg
(Versailles, Ind.) – Sean David Nichols, only 15 and carrying a handgun he had illegally purchased for $95 with his Christmas money, got into a car with two people in Colerain Township under the guise that they’d simply be hanging out the night of December 29, 2012.
Early that next morning, he found himself breaking into two homes and almost a third in Milan. In the first armed burglary, he held the gun as his friend took money and marijuana from a drug dealer. During the second, he saw the flash of the gun he had minutes before handed to a woman he just met. Allison Moore allegedly fired the .40 caliber pistol at Nancy Hershman, who then fell to the floor and later died.
Fast forward to Nichols sitting in an orange jail jumpsuit and coat in Ripley County Circuit Court on Tuesday, January 28.
“I’m very sorry to the family. This should have never happened,” Nichols said, looking as young as his age and probably just as scared inside as he was that morning in Milan.
Nichols, his attorney, and Ripley County prosecutors reached a plea agreement in which the boy, now 16, pleaded guilty to a charge of Burglary of a Dwelling Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury (Class A felony). Remaining counts against the former Northwest High School freshman were dismissed.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Carl Taul handed down a maximum 50 year sentence. In accordance with the agreement, Taul ordered Nichols to serve 30 years in prison. The remaining 20 years will be spent on probation.
“This is just one more rung in the ladder in an effort to try and get some sort of justice for the family of Nancy Hershman and the citizens of Ripley County,” Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel said.
To satisfy the plea agreement, Nichols must also testify in any future court proceedings of his co-defendants, Allison Moore and Daniel Hodge.
During the hearing, he answered questions peppered at him by the judge and prosecutors during a two-hour guilty plea and sentencing hearing.
While hanging out with his older brother, Ben Nichols, and another friend while getting high on marijuana, Sean’s phone rang. Hodge – who knew that Nichols carried a gun – asked if the group would join him to hang out. They agreed.
Allison Moore, now 23, and Hodge, now age 17, came to pick up the group in Moore’s green Buick. Sean had met Moore once before a night earlier. They drove for a while and it became apparent the two sitting in the front seats had ideas other than chilling out. Hodge revealed that they were driving to Indiana to rob a drug dealer. Nichols – the youngest person in the car – told the court he was hesitant at first, but Hodge talked him into it.
In his testimony during court Tuesday, Nichols said he had no connection to Ripley County. He had never even visited there.
Nichols said Moore parked her car down the street from the home of Ryan Jackson. He and Hodge went to the house where Hodge kicked in the door, made his way to a back bedroom, and confronted Jackson. The resident resisted the robbery at first, but gave in when Hodge informed him that Nichols had a gun. They got about $400 in cash and about four ounces of marijuana, then retreated to Moore’s car.
Nichols said Moore wasn’t satisfied and wanted more money. They drove to another home, but Hodge and Nichols opted to not attempt to break-in out of fear that the residence contained firearms.
The group then travelled to Nancy Hershman’s home, which Nichols said Hodge had picked out. Hertel said Hodge had once lived in the Milan area and his father’s construction company had done some work on Hershman’s home. He had once dated a girl who may have lived there. Hodge believed there was money was stored in the home’s closet, Nichols said.
Moore was frustrated with how the teen boys had declined to break into the second home, Nichols said. She parked the car about 100 yards away, he estimated, and asked for the gun. He gave it to her along with one of his gloves.
With Ben Nichols and the other friend waiting back in the car, the three walked around Hershman’s home once. Sean Nichols told the court he could see a television on in one room. Hodge then kicked in the side door with one blow.
Moore was first in, Nichols testified, then Hodge. Nichols said he heard Moore tell somebody to get on the ground. He heard a woman state “What the hell?” Moments later, he heard “Don’t test me again” followed by a gunshot.
Hodge attempted to grab a television, but the group quickly fled after less than a minute inside the Hershman home.
Nichols said that while driving back to Cincinnati they stopped for gas and to purchase cigarillos to make blunts with the marijuana they had stolen. Moore, he recalled, didn’t seem to care about shooting Hershman.
Nichols said he had purchased his gun for protection from another person in his neighborhood who he had a beef with. He said he once stolen a friend’s father’s gun which was later taken from him by a larger kid. Possessing a gun, Nichols said, he believes is why Hodge invited him to go along to Indiana.
Nichols’ attorney, Ross Thomas, told Taul that his client has good parents, but he managed to become “a little off-track.”
“The co-defendants took advantage of him. He was just 15-years-old at the time,” Thomas said.
Taul cited Nichols’ young age and lack of a criminal history as mitigating factors in determining the sentence.
Just before the judge accepted the plea agreement and ordered his sentence, Nichols apologized to Hershman’s friends and family which had come to fill the courtroom gallery.
“I promise to change and refrain from criminal activity,” Nichols said.
Hershman’s daughter, Dawn Evans, said her mother – Nancy worked with special needs children at Milan schools, led the local girl scouts, and was a school bus driver – would want a light sentence for Nichols. However, Evans said, she herself wanted to see him serve the maximum.
“You see Sean, the choices you made that night had consequences not only for you,” Evans said.
Darlene Grace, the sister of the murder victim, told Nichols she doesn’t believe he is a bad person, but Nancy’s death has left a large hole in the family and the community.
“I feel bad for your parents that you’ve done this, because we lost Nancy and they will lose you while you are in prison,” Grace told the teen. “Maybe someday you will help others instead of hurting them. God bless you.”
After the hearing, Evans spoke to reporters and commented on the tragedy of the case.
“It’s the same reaction that I had a year ago when he was brought into court and arraigned. The mom in me wants to grab ahold of him because he’s a misguided boy that made mistakes. The daughter of the victim in me, that’s not what she wants. I do feel like he is remorseful and is least to blame for what happened that night,” Evans said.
Hertel said that plea agreement talks continued with Allison Moore and Daniel Hodge for about a year following their arrests. The prosecutor indicated that an agreement won’t be reached and those cases will go to trial. Moore’s trial is scheduled for March 31 and Hodge’s for July 7, Hertel said.