Hungry Horse Painter Gets Suspended Sentence in Shower


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Aug 23, 2023

Hungry Horse Painter Gets Suspended Sentence in Shower

Local landscape artist Nicholas Oberling also must complete an anger management program for attempting to electrocute his former domestic partner A 60-year-old Hungry Horse man who pleaded guilty last

Local landscape artist Nicholas Oberling also must complete an anger management program for attempting to electrocute his former domestic partner

A 60-year-old Hungry Horse man who pleaded guilty last year to a felony count of criminal endangerment after trying to electrocute his ex-partner in her shower last summer was sentenced Jan. 25 to a five-year suspended term in the Montana State Prison.

As part of the sentence, local landscape artist Nicholas Oberling is required to complete an anger management program.

Judge Robert B. Allison presided over the hearing in Flathead County District Court and imposed the state’s sentencing recommendation with minor modifications. The court suspended part of the restitution to the victim in the case and the specifics of the defendant’s anger management program will be at the discretion of his probation officer. He was credited for 186 days spent in jail.

Oberling entered a plea deal last November with prosecutors.

The victim read an impact statement at the sentencing hearing and told the court she feared Oberling following the shower wiring incident at their Hungry Horse home and asked Judge Allison to hold him accountable.

“Mr. Oberling arranged my death in the home I created – initially for both of us – on land I could not love more,” the victim said. “He has left me feeling bereft and emotionally stranded.”

According to charging documents, the victim on July 23 was taking a shower when she received a “big shock” after grabbing soap from the soap dish. After dropping the soap on the floor, she found a wire in the soap dish with the plastic coating stripped back about three inches. When deputies arrived, they found the wire extending through the opposite side of the wall and through a drywall patch that ran toward an outlet. The wire was not plugged into the outlet at the time, but law enforcement observed that the wire was bent around other stripped wires that exposed bare copper and were plugged into the outlet.

During the hearing, she said she also discovered a baby monitor in the crawl space, which the defendant later admitted to installing.

After the woman was shocked, she called Oberling, with whom she was in the process of separating, to ask him what he had done, records state. She reported to law enforcement that the defendant returned to the residence and told her he was trying to shock her. He then tried to take her phone, causing a fight.

“He was bland – unmoved,” she said. “He showed no surprise and denied there was a shower wire and dismissed me as paranoid.”

Justice of the Peace Eric Hummel granted the victim a 10-year order of protection in Flathead County Justice Court following the incident.

The victim told the court that Oberling tried to kill her in order to inherit their Hungry Horse property, which has a survivorship clause. The estranged couple also owned Glacier Fine Art gallery together, which was on the property and has since closed.

The victim said Oberling continued harassing her from jail and she described a letter she received from her attorney that Oberling had written, which explained that he intended to “go after” her finances that he was entitled to.

According to her victim impact statement, she also told the court she was upset when Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner did not file the initial pending charge of attempted deliberate homicide.

Judge Allison told the victim that he suspected the charge was never filed because the wire was not plugged in.

Oberling told the court different versions of events that led to the shower wiring and described his ex-partner as abusive and controlling. He said the relationship started to take a turn shortly after buying the gallery and moving in together.

While Oberling admitted to installing the wire and the baby monitor, he said he never intended to kill his ex-partner, but he only meant to frighten her.

“I just had a breakdown … I put the wire in the shower to scare her because somehow, I knew that it would get me out (of the relationship),” Oberling said.

Oberling described the victim, who is a licensed psychiatrist, as a violent and controlling partner who had frequent meltdowns and “rage episodes.”

After the victim discovered the wire and called law enforcement, Oberling said he was relieved once he was arrested and said the six months he spent in the Flathead County Detention Center gave him a safe place to recover from the trauma of their relationship.

Oberling was released from the Flathead County Detention Center on Jan. 25 following 186 days in jail.

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