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Billings woman sentenced to state hospital for satanic 'initiation' murder

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Posted at 12:16 PM, May 20, 2024

BILLINGS - A Billings woman charged with stabbing and killing a man inside his home as part of what she described as a satanic "initiation" has been sentenced to a state hospital.

Nina Mel Cochran, 34, was sentenced in Yellowstone County District Court on Friday after entering a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for he to plead no contest to deliberate homicide.

Judge Brett Linneweber followed a recommendation from prosecutors and ordered Cochran to serve a sentence of 75 years in the custody of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. She was ordered to remain at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs where she has been receiving mental health evaluations and treatment.

Cochran was charged in December 2022 for the stabbing and bludgeoning death of 64-year-old Douglas Merrill Nielsen inside his South Side residence.

Cochran was arrested on Dec. 1 in Park County after a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped a reckless driver on Interstate 90 near Big Timber. During a subsequent interview, Cochran told an officer Nielsen was "in his house dead" and that she had killed him as part of a satanic "initiation that the detective would not understand," court records state.

Cochran also reportedly said "she had been born to become Lucifer and rule over the earth," according to court records.

Billings police searched the house on Dec. 6 and found Nielsen's body inside.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors acknowledged that Cochran has a "mental disease which, while not sufficient for acquittal, nevertheless rendered me unable to appreciate the criminality of my conduct or to conform my conduct to the requirements of the law."

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