‘My daughter’s gone’: Kanab man accused of killing woman outside SLC nightclub to face trial, judge rules

Dustin Pedersen is charged with murder in the November killing of Nichole Olsen.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dustin Pedersen pleads not guilty in the shooting death of Nichole Olsen during a court appearance in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 31, 2023.

A Kanab man suspected of killing 29-year-old Nichole Olsen outside of a Salt Lake City nightclub in November appeared in court Monday, when a judge ruled that there was enough evidence for the murder case to move forward.

Dustin Pedersen was arraigned Monday in 3rd District Court by Judge Richard McKelvie, who “bound over” one charge of first-degree murder, essentially confirming the charge. Pedersen entered a plea of not guilty, and remains out on bail. On Monday, he wore a white button-down shirt and dark pants.

The next hearing in the case will be Sept. 25, when a motion to return Pedersen’s seized iPhone to him will be discussed. The motion states that since the phone is Pedersen’s property, and since the court hasn’t restricted his use of the phone as a condition of his pretrial release, his phone should be returned to him.

Donna Kelly, an attorney for Olsen’s family, said the prosecution plans to oppose the motion. Prosecutors didn’t speak during Monday’s hearing except to schedule the September hearing.

Outside of the courtroom, Jessica Jensen, Olsen’s aunt, said the case proceeding is a “win” for the family.

Brenda Olsen, Nichole Olsen’s mother, said the hearing was “just emotional.”

“It’s hard to see [Dustin Pedersen]. It’s hard to see that he’s out,” Brenda Olsen said. “That he’ll get to spend the holidays with his family. I just missed my [my daughter] being there for her birthday,” which was on July 22.

She would’ve been 30, and was the mother of a young son.

“It’s frustrating that he’s out here with his family and my daughter’s gone,” Brenda Olsen continued.

A fight in a parking lot

(Via GoFundMe) Nichole Olsen is photographed with her son. Olsen was fatally shot in November 2022.

Nichole Olsen was fatally shot at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 20 after an “altercation” at The Exchange nightclub, according to charging documents.

Matthew Hightower, Olsen’s boyfriend, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he and Nichole, affectionately known as “Nikki,” were at the nightclub with another couple when two men started trying to “pick up on” their girlfriends.

Hightower told the men that Nichole Olsen and the other woman were “already spoken for,” at which point he said the men — one of whom police later identified as Pedersen — became confrontational. Security then escorted the two men out of the club, according to the charging documents.

Nichole Olsen’s group later left and went to a parking lot near 300 S. West Temple for an “after-party,” where a BMW pulled up and parked directly in front of the Olsen group’s vehicle.

At that point, a man that police have said was Pedersen exited the driver’s side of the car and confronted Hightower, saying “you are the people from the club,” according to a police report. A fight between Hightower and a passenger in the BMW ensued.

A witness in Olsen’s group said Nichole Olsen and Pedersen were standing by the BMW when a single shot was heard, and Olsen walked over to a friend and said she had been shot. The witness then saw Pedersen tuck something into his waistband. The two men left the scene in the BMW, according to the charging document.

As the BMW left the parking lot, another witness used a cellphone to film it driving away.

When homicide detectives reviewed the footage, they saw the BMW had a dealership license plate and later traced the sale of the car to Murray, where it had recently been sold to Pedersen.

Nichole Olsen’s friends drove her to a hospital, where she died of her injuries.

‘How is granting bail ... serving justice?”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dustin Pedersen pleads not guilty in the shooting death of Nichole Olsen during a court appearance in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 31, 2023.

At a Feb. 27 hearing, Salt Lake City police detective Nathan Wiley said Pedersen and his friend rushed to their hotel after the shooting, quickly packed up their belongings and drove south.

They stopped for a few hours at a hotel in Nephi, where Pedersen learned the shooting was fatal, the detective said, before continuing their drive home to Kanab.

The following morning, Pedersen turned himself in to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, where he told detective Dathan Chamberlain he had fired the gun to “scare some people who were fighting and a female was hit by the bullet,” according to the charging document.

Salt Lake City investigators drove to Kanab to take custody of Pedersen and served a warrant on his vehicle, where they found the .22-caliber handgun they say was used in the shooting.

Pedersen was released on $100,000 bail in February after McKelvie received letters of support from 43 different character witnesses, including powerful people in Pedersen’s southern Utah community.

One was from Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist, who wrote that he had once worked with Pedersen and praised his “intellect, humanity and hard work.” Another, from Kane County Commissioner Celeste Meyeres, lauded Pedersen as someone who gave back to the community, was giving, kind and even-keel[ed].”

Before McKelvie made his decision, Salt Lake County prosecutor Blithe Cravens argued Pedersen posed a flight risk and was a danger to the community. The decision left Olsen’s family reeling.

“How is granting bail to someone accused of murder serving justice to [Nichole’s son]? How can we give a voice to Nichole, the actual victim in this case?” Olsen’s aunt told The Tribune at the time.

A tentative trial date was not set Monday.

— Tribune staff writer Mark Eddington contributed to this story.