NewsCrime and Courts


Woman sentenced for 'satanic initiation' murder

Nina Mel Cochran of Billings
Posted at 3:38 PM, May 20, 2024

Nina Mel Cochran of Billings, charged with stabbing and killing a man as part of what she described as a "satanic initiation," has been sentenced to a state hospital.

Cochran, 34 years old, was sentenced in Yellowstone County District Court on Friday, May 17, 2024, after entering a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for her 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 Montana Department of Public Health & 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 December 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 December 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."