A Grants Pass man facing murder charges in the death of his teenage girlfriend told police she came at him with a knife and he took it from her, stabbing, biting, punching and possibly strangling her, court records show.
Nathanial Lee Geith, 25, looked dazed as he appeared in Josephine Circuit Court on Thursday afternoon via video conferencing to be arraigned on charges of murder and third-degree escape. He is accused of killing 17-year-old Savanna Albertson.
Geith, who often goes by the name "Nathan," is being held without bail in the Josephine County Jail pending a bail hearing. He was arrested Wednesday night when, covered with blood, he climbed a fence into a neighbor's yard in the 1400 block of Portola Drive, just a few hundred feet from his home at 1301 S.E. Oriole St.
He tried to hide in the neighbor's garage, but was taken into custody. Officers then found Albertson's body at his home.
An affidavit filed with the court said that Geith told Grants Pass Department of Public Safety officers that Albertson came at him with a knife.
After he took it away from her, he allegedly stabbed her 33 times, bit her face, punched and possibly strangled her. He told police he "overreacted," "snapped" and "went psycho" in a "rage" before fleeing with the knife.
The 2003 Glendale High School graduate was a track star, said his aunt, Marie Brendon, of Wolf Creek. He spent time in New York after graduating and returned to Southern Oregon three years ago. He got a job as a gas station attendant at the 76 Truck Stop Grill & Deli in Wolf Creek and, about a year ago, Geith and a previous girlfriend had a child.
Things started going badly after Geith's father died about three years ago, Brendon said. He lost his job and was losing his home. He was taking methamphetamine, she said.
"He had a good future ahead of him until the drugs," Brendon said. "He was a good kid. They were both good kids."
Oregon court records show only one conviction for Geith, in 2008, for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
Eileen Zink, cofounder of the Wolf Creek Teen Center, is serving as spokesperson for Albertson's mother, Darcy Albertson, and stepfather, Gary Riva. She said Albertson and Geith met at the gas station. They started dating about three weeks ago.
"We are all devastated and confused and unsure of what really happened here," Zink said. "Savanna appeared to be happy. People have said that he was showing signs of emotional problems, but she seemed very upbeat."
Zink said the family doesn't believe Albertson's status as a witness in the manslaughter case against Joseph O'Dell played a part in her death. O'Dell, 24, was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for the July 2009 killing of Caitlyn Strauser.
"We don't think that Nathan even knew him (O'Dell)," Zink said.
Zink said Albertson's life had changed for the better in recent months. She participated in the Life Independent, Family and Trust program that helps more than 700 Josephine County children who are homeless or are living in unsafe housing. Through cooperation with Inn Sight Alternative School, the LIFT program helps at-risk youth continue their education. Albertson recently earned her GED and was enrolled in engineering and mechanics classes at Rogue Community College.
"She was on track to progress with her education," Zink said. "She had a bright future ahead of her."
Zink said Albertson had a dry, sarcastic wit. She loved to camp and hike and volunteered with the Toby Fund, a Wolf Creek-based organization aimed at protecting animals. Most recently, she was elated over her new romance.
"She was a young lady who had a friend that she trusted and loved," Zink said. "He made her happy and he made her laugh. She didn't know how severe his mental health problems were, that he'd have a psychotic break."
Reach reporter Stacy D. Stumbo at 541-474-3806 or email@example.com