A 30-year-old man has pleaded guilty to attacking and injuring a woman on a June afternoon as he snatched her from a southwest Lawrence bike path.
Ahead of his trial scheduled for Monday, William E. Nichols entered pleas Tuesday to counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated battery for the June 16 attack on the path between the Youth Sports Complex and Clinton Lake.
“The most shocking thing about this crime is the fact it did occur in broad daylight in a public place,” Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said.
After the guilty pleas, District Judge Peggy Kittel convicted Nichols of the three counts. They were the same charges he would face at trial, except prosecutors agreed to change an attempted rape count to aggravated sexual battery.
Branson said the victim in the case, who now lives out of the country, was pleased with the conviction and the fact she won’t have to testify at a trial. He also said Nichols still faces a severe sentence on the aggravated kidnapping conviction.
Prosecutors will argue for a sentence of nearly 14 years in prison on the kidnapping count and ask that the other two lesser sentences to run concurrent to that, Branson said.
The victim, who was 23 at the time, testified at a June preliminary hearing in the case and accused Nichols of grabbing her off her bike. She alleged he then fondled her and held a knife to her throat.
Prosecutors allege Nichols also stabbed her; she is expected to recover from her injuries, Branson said.
Two recent Lawrence High School graduates, Aidan Waugh and Nathaniel Mehl, rescued the woman and chased her attacker away. Nichols was later arrested in the area by officers.
In August, the city and Lawrence Police Department gave Waugh and Mehl commendation awards for their actions.
“Fortunately, whatever Mr. Nichols’ final intentions were, he was thwarted by two young men that came to the victim’s rescue,” Branson said.
On Feb. 28, Kittel is scheduled to sentence Nichols, who told police he moved to Lawrence shortly before he was arrested. The victim, who is now 24, intends to return and speak in court then.
“We do expect her to come back and address the court,” Branson said, “and most importantly put her feelings on the record.”