Morley Swingle's career - so far

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Published Jan. 2, 1987 Morley Swingle, having served the past several years as an assistant prosecutor, took over Thursday as prosecuting attorney of Cape Girardeau County. He won election to the post in November and succeeds Larry Ferrell, who did not seek reelection. (Missourian archive)

The Southeast Missouri compiled a timeline of highlights on Morley Swingle's career as Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney. The list includes professional accomplishments, controversies and high-profile cases.

April 21, 1955

H. Morley Swingle was born in Cape Girardeau, the son of Sgt. Morley G. Swingle of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.


Swingle graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia Law School. While a student, he worked three months as an intern for Supreme Court Judge Robert T. Donnelly.

Swingle returned to his hometown of Cape Girardeau as an associate in the Spradling & Spradling law firm.

Dec. 1, 1982

Swingle began his duties as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Cape Girardeau County.

Jan. 13, 1986

With the announcement that Prosecuting Attorney Larry Ferrell planned to step down after his term expired at the end of the year, Swingle officially entered his name into the prosecuting attorney's race.

Nov. 4, 1986

Running for prosecuting attorney without opposition on the Republican ticket, Swingle received 13,745 votes in the general election.

Jan. 1, 1987

Swingle began his duties as Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney. As assistant prosecuting attorney, he handled more than 800 cases and 30 jury trials.

Feb. 27, 1987

A Cole County jury sentenced Ray Bibb Jr. -- confessed murderer of Wisconsin truck driver Kenneth Wood, 61 -- to life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years. Swingle had told the jury: "Every breath Ray Bibb takes is an insult to the friends and family of Kenneth Wood. Ray Bibb and his lawyers are asking for mercy, but how much mercy did Ray Bibb show Kenneth Wood?"

Nov. 6, 1987

Swingle charged former Cape Girardeau Municipal Court clerk Helen Sterling with stealing in excess of $150 in city funds, a class C felony; the charge came after an almost four-month investigation into missing court funds. An audit found almost $63,000 to be missing. She later pleaded guilty to felony stealing.

Feb. 3, 1988

Anthony C. McGee, 23, who acted as his own counsel, was convicted of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the stabbing death of Robert Earl Battles in front of 505 Good Hope St., on Aug. 21. In closing arguments, Swingle had urged the jury to "send a message to the kids on Good Hope and other streets in Cape Girardeau" that carrying loaded guns and open knives will not be tolerated. He was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder plus 30 years for armed criminal action.

April 19, 1989

Helen Sterling was ordered by a judge to serve 60 days of shock detention in the Cape Girardeau County Jail as the result of probation violations.

April 26, 1990

David Alan Smith, 31, who was seriously wounded while attempting to break out of the Cape Girardeau Jail almost three years earlier, was sentenced to two life sentences for attempted escape and kidnapping and 100 years for armed criminal action.

November 1990

Swingle ran without opposition for another term as prosecuting attorney.

Sept. 24, 1991

Swingle concluded the longest jury trial of his career. He served as special prosecutor in the 22-day murder trial of William N. Pagano in Waynesville, Mo. A jury convicted Pagano of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Mark Timothy Todd. Pagano was sentenced to 23 years in prison. In 1994, he shot and killed himself as officers arrived to take him to prison. He had remained free on bond while appealing his conviction.

Dec. 31, 1991

Swingle moved from his office in Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau to new quarters on the second floor of the county courthouse in Jackson.

Feb. 26, 1992

Swingle requested that a special prosecutor be named to investigate missing money in the handling of speeding tickets by a former employee of the Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney's office.

Sept. 20, 1992

Bridgette Harris, 22, her 11-month-old son, Dontay, and her mother, Evelyn Sparks, were found shot to death at Sparks' home, 1117 S. Ranney Ave. Harris' ex-boyfriend, Andrew Lyons, was charged with the murders.

Aug. 16, 1993

Sixteen-year-old John Wes Selvy of Cape Girardeau was ordered to stand trial as an adult for the murder of his 15-year-old girlfriend, Shekelia Johnson, in an alley behind the 200 block of South Lorimier Street.

Feb. 9, 1994

Swingle announced plans to seek re-election to a third term as prosecuting attorney of Cape Girardeau County.

Feb. 17, 1994

Five members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the hazing death of Michael Davis, a man pledging the fraternity. Eventually, 16 men were charged in Davis' death.

Sept. 19, 1995

The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state's hazing law in a case stemming from the 1994 death of Michael Davis at Southeast Missouri State University.

Nov. 27, 1995

Bedlam broke out the moment Deprece Harris was sentenced to life in prison. The 20-year-old Cape Girardeau man began screaming obscenities at the judge, at the murdered man's family and at anyone who caught his eye in the crowded courtroom. As the lone bailiff approached Harris, about 15 friends and family members rushed both men. Three Cape Girardeau police officers who heard the screaming then entered the courtroom and quickly restored order. Harris was convicted of the slaying of Maurice Campbell.

March 22, 1996

Russell Bucklew was charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping, rape and burglary in connection with the shooting of Michael Sanders and the abduction of Bucklew's former girlfriend.

April 25, 1996

Andrew L. Lyons was found guilty in the first degree in the shotgun deaths of Evelyn Sparks and her daughter, Bridgette Harris. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 11-month-old Dontay Harris, son of Lyons and Bridgette Harris. Lyons later received the death penalty.

May 5, 1996

With Cape Girardeau County to become a first-class county Jan. 1, the county commission had appointed Swingle county counselor, or attorney.

June 17, 1996

Russell Bucklew, who was facing 15 criminal charges that included first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape and armed criminal action, escaped from the Cape Girardeau County Jail by hiding in a trash bag. Later that night, he exchanged gunfire with a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer after a high-speed chase in St. Louis. He was caught and returned to the Jackson jail. Bucklew was later convicted of first-degree murder, rape, burglary, armed criminal action and kidnapping.

Feb. 3, 1997

Swingle resigned his membership in the American Bar Association after learning the nation's largest organization of lawyers voted to seek a moratorium against the death penalty.

April 9, 1997

Swingle appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey" television show to discuss the fatal hazing of Michael Davis in 1994.

Feb. 17, 1998

Before a gathering of law enforcement officers, Swingle announced his intention to file for re-election.

Jan. 1, 1999

Swingle began another term as prosecuting attorney.

June 28, 1999

Swingle declared David C. Booher's fatal shooting of Debra Ann Poch justified. Swingle said Booher believed he was defending his home when he shot Poch through the front door of his residence.


Swingle was appointed to a Missouri Supreme Court committee assigned to write jury procedure used in criminal cases in the state.

Sept. 30, 1999

A day before standing trial for recklessly endangering others with the HIV virus, Allen L. Mason pleaded guilty to a single count. He had originally been charged with 18 counts of endangerment with HIV. This was the first time someone was charged with HIV endangerment in Cape Girardeau County.

May 9, 2000

A preliminary autopsy showed that Carol Jean Lindley, 56, of rural Cape Girardeau County died from a single gunshot wound to the head. A fire was set to conceal the homicide. Suspect in the murder and arson was Lindley's teenage grandson, Joshua Wolf.

April 20, 2001

Joshua Wolf, 17, was found guilty of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and second-degree arson in the killing of the grandmother who had raised him, Carol Jean Lindley. Because Swingle didn't seek the death penalty, the murder conviction carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. In addition to the life sentence on the murder count, Wolf was also given life for armed criminal action and seven years for arson, the sentences to run concurrently.

Dec. 30, 2001

An ongoing dispute among former Cape Girardeau County public administrator John Ferguson and the county commission and Swingle ended when Ferguson turned over the remainder of the nearly 100 cases to the new public administrator. The commission, through Swingle, had threatened to sue Ferguson over the return of the files.

Feb. 26, 2002

Swingle faced no opposition in his bid for another term as prosecuting attorney, as the filing deadline for the August primary ended.

Aug. 28, 2002

A Jackson father was found guilty of leaving his 3-year-old daughter alone in an apartment with his wife's corpse and a kitchen littered with antipsychotic pills. James E. Bratina, 30, awoke to find his wife dead on Jan. 15, 2001. But instead of seeking help, he left his daughter and went to work, returning nearly four hours later to call 911.

Sept. 3, 2002

It was announced that Southeast Missouri State University Press would publish Swingle's 296-page novel, "The Gold of Cape Girardeau," in October.

Nov. 19, 2002

Swingle filed a felony stealing charge against a former Arkansas lawyer, Robert Hardin Smith, for allegedly taking six William Faulkner letters from Southeast Missouri State University's rare book room and selling them to a manuscript dealer in Texas. Smith pleaded guilty to the theft and was sentenced to seven years.

Nov. 26, 2002

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that white defendant Troy Marlowe should get a new trial, because of the prosecutor's disqualification of the only black member of the jury pool. At issue was Swingle's use of a peremptory strike when selecting the jury to hear the case against Marlowe, who was on trial for crimes related to the attempted theft of anhydrous ammonia, a key ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Marlowe later pleaded guilty to two felonies, armed criminal action and resisting arrest, rather than face trail on the same meth-related crimes.

Oct. 23, 2003

After two days of testimony from 30 witnesses, a jury declared Jerry L. Self Jr., not guilty of burning 14 fellow party guests. Self had faced 14 felony assault charges that were filed when witnesses accused him of throwing a 5-gallon gasoline container into a bonfire Jan. 17.

Feb. 24, 2004

The city of Jackson filed a lawsuit against the Cape Girardeau County Commission and county treasurer seeking nearly $472,000 in road and bridge taxes that the city claimed it should have received since 1997. The suit was the peak of a legal disagreement that had been brewing for at least 16 months, when the county and city sought an opinion from the attorney general's office. Swingle provided much of the county's legal advice on the matter.

March 30, 2004

The Missouri Supreme Court declined to revisit the issue of whether death row inmate Andrew Lyons should have been found competent to stand trial for a 1992 triple slaying in Cape Girardeau. In its unanimous opinion, the court said Lyons' attorney raised no legitimate grounds for review.

June 2004

Swingle mailed out 991 postcards to friends and acquaintances urging their support of Cape Girardeau's quarter-cent fire sales tax proposal. On the cards, Swingle was pictured astride a camel.

June 23, 2004

Swingle was tapped to handle a Columbia, Mo., murder case involving a former police officer's homosexual relationship with the victim. Steve Rios, 27, was suspected in the killing of Jesse Valencia, 23.

Aug. 3, 2004

The Missouri Supreme Court ordered that Rubin Weeks be granted the DNA test he maintained would prove him innocent of a 1991 kidnapping and rape of a Jackson woman. Originally, Weeks pleaded guilty to the crimes and received two concurrent life sentences. The test confirmed Weeks' guilt.

Aug. 22, 2004

"The Civil War in Cape Girardeau," a documentary about the Civil War's impact on Southeast Missouri based on research by Swingle, aired on television.

Aug. 25, 2004

A circuit court judge awarded Jackson a huge legal victory over Cape Girardeau County, ordering the county to pay $471,904 for road and bridge funds that the county should have been setting aside since the county obtained first-class status in 1997. The county's initial refusal was based on research by Swingle.

October 2005

The Missouri Humanities Council chose "The Gold of Cape Girardeau" to receive a 2005 Governor's Humanities Award. The popular book was in its third printing.

Dec. 17, 2005

Swingle addressed 703 graduating students during Southeast Missouri State University's commencement ceremony at the Show Me Center.

Feb. 28, 2006

Prosecuting Attorney Swingle filed for re-election.

May 2006

Swingle was appointed to the Missouri Film Commission advisory board, the result of his work with the filming of "Killshot" in Cape Girardeau in January.

June 2006

Swingle was voted into Mystery Writers of America.

Dec. 29, 2006

Swingle was sworn in for another term as prosecuting attorney.

March 30, 2007

Swingle's latest book, "Scoundrels to the Hoosebow: Perry Mason Moments and Entertaining Cases from the Files of a Prosecuting Attorney," went on sale.

May 3, 2007

Ontario Reed of Malden, Mo., was convicted of raping and sodomizing a woman in her Cape Girardeau apartment in 2001 in a cold case that was solved with DNA evidence. This was the first conviction in a cold case solved by DNA evidence in Cape Girardeau County. Reed was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

Sept. 6, 2007

Jonathan D. McClard, 16, was certified to stand trial as an adult for the shooting and wounding of Jeremy D. Voshage, 17, at the Shawnee Square Car Wash in Jackson. McClard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for first-degree assault. On Jan. 4, 2008, he committed suicide at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Mo.

Nov. 8, 2007

"Bootheel Man," a novel written by Swingle, went on sale. It delved into Southeast Missouri's prehistory as the domain of mound-building American Indian cultures.

Dec. 10, 2007

Timothy W. Krajcir pleaded guilty to the rape of Debborah Sheppard, a Southern Illinois University-Carbondale student, in the morning, receiving a sentence of 40 years. In the afternoon, he was charged with the 1977 murders of Brenda and Mary Parsh and Sheila Cole, the 1982 rapes and slayings of Margie Call and Mildred Wallace, as well as another rape from 1982. He pleaded guilty a few months later in Cape Girardeau to the Call, Parsh, Cole and Wallace murders. He received 14 life sentences for the crimes.

Feb. 27, 2008

After a coroner's jury decided Steven R. Julian, a state fugitive investigator, committed a felony when he shot Zachary C. Snyder while trying to place him in custody, Swingle charged Julian with involuntary manslaughter. Julian was acquitted.

May 5, 2008

The Cape Girardeau County Commission voted 2-1 to allow Swingle to promote his books on the prosecuting attorney's website. The page had been hidden from view since the week before, when Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell directed that it be removed because of potential conflict with the county's Internet use policy barring commercial uses of the county's resources. Along with his three novels, the site included a list of and links to many of Swingle's scholarly and legal articles.

May 12, 2008

Swingle called for the Missouri attorney general's office to investigate 2nd District County Commissioner Jay Purcell for allegedly secretly recording closed county commission meetings. The office declined to file criminal charges.

May 22, 2008

Jay Purcell released plans to settle his lawsuit with the county over alleged violations of the state's open meetings and records law. The offer wasn't well received by Swingle, who learned about the offer from a reporter. Swingle called the handling of the offer unprofessional and unethical, and said the parties would be going to court. Swingle later recused himself and the commission hired Tom Ludwig to respond to the Purcell suit.

Jan. 26, 2009

After 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell again asked that Swingle remove his novels from a county website, the county commissioners voted 2-1 to allow the prosecuting attorney to continue posting images of the books there.

April 10, 2009

Swingle announced that Max Allen Ellison Jr., 61, had been arrested at his Nixa, Mo., home on charges of first-degree murder and robbery in the 1979 slaying of Deborah L. Martin. Ellison died in August 2009, ending the investigation into the Martin murder.

November 2009

Swingle was appointed special prosecutor for a Dunklin County case with racial overtones. Swingle was asked to prosecute Kennett, Mo., resident Heather Ellis, who was arrested in 2007 at the Kennett Walmart and charged with two counts of felony assault on a law enforcement officer, misdemeanor peace disturbance and misdemeanor resisting arrest. Ellis accused the white officers of abusing and assaulting her. Under a plea deal, Ellis avoided a felony conviction for her part in the scuffle with officers by pleading guilty to resisting arrest and peace disturbance. The felony counts were dropped. Ellis was placed on unsupervised probation for a year, sentenced to serve four days of shock jail time and required to attend anger management class.

Dec. 8, 2009

Swingle filed felony charges against Cape Girardeau lawyer Joe T. Buerkle, 58, who allegedly stole $325,000 from a trust fund account he was overseeing. Swingle recused himself in November 2010 and a special prosecutor was appointed. His recusal was associated with reports that he had become romantically involved with the victim in the case, Lane Thomasson. Buerkle, who pleaded guilty to mismanaging the trust, received a seven-year prison sentence.

Jan. 26, 2010

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that, because Andrew A. Lyons was mentally disabled, he wouldn't be executed for the 1992 shooting deaths of his girlfriend, her mother and his son. He was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole.

Feb. 23, 2010

Swingle filed for his seventh term as prosecuting attorney.

March 2, 2010

Swingle was reappointed to a 13-member Missouri Supreme Court Committee assigned to write jury procedure used in criminal cases in Missouri.

Dec. 30, 2010

Samuel Hughes pleaded guilty to a reduced second-degree murder charge stemming from the shooting deaths of Jamie Lynn Orman, her unborn child and her 15-year-old son, Derrick, in 2009. Hughes agreed to testify against Ryan Patterson in his capital murder trial. Hughes was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

June 24, 2011

Michelle Lawrence of Chaffee, Mo., the accused mastermind of a murder plot that led to the deaths of Jamie Lynn Orman, her unborn child and her teenage son, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Lawrence was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

July 11, 2011

Swingle testified at his divorce proceedings that he was involved in a romantic relationship with the victim in a 2009 embezzlement case several weeks before recusing himself.

July 29, 2011

Clay Waller was arrested on charges of stealing and harassment. He was also questioned in the disappearance of his wife, Jacque Waller. On Oct. 3 Clay Waller pleaded guilty to federal charges of sending Internet threats to his sister-in-law. He later was given a five-year sentence on the federal charge. With the death of James Clay Waller Sr. on Dec. 20, Swingle lost access to testimony that claimed the younger Waller confessed to killing his wife. A circuit court judge had earlier denied the preservation of his testimony.

Aug. 4, 2011

Ryan Patterson was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in the 2009 shootings of Jamie Lynn Orman and her 15-year-old son, Derrick, and the death of Orman's unborn child. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in 2012.

Sept. 9, 2011

Thomas E. Evans was acquitted of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Woody Ervin on Bloomfield Road in 2010. Swingle contended Evans was the shooter but went free because he was unable to convince the jury of Evans' guilt.

April 23, 2012

Saying there was "no point in waiting any longer," Swingle charged Clay Waller with first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence nearly 11 months after his estranged wife first went missing. The charge alleged Waller killed Jacque Waller on or about June 1.

Sept. 25, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that originated in Cape Girardeau County. The nation's highest court will weigh whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant before ordering a blood test on unwilling drunken-driving suspects. The case began in 2010, when a Jackson man was charged with DWI after a highway patrol trooper had drawn blood against the suspect's will.

Oct. 1, 2012

Mercedes Ayers, 17, pleaded guilty to the hate crime assault of a gay neighbor, reversing her previous denials that the victim's sexual orientation had nothing to do with the July 24 attack. She was sentenced to five years of probation.

Oct. 9, 2012

Charles Eugene O'Howell, who was already serving a 55-year sentence for a 1982 burglary, kidnapping and rape, pleaded guilty to robbery and rape stemming from the assault of a Cape Girardeau woman in November 1981. He was sentenced to 25 years.

Nov. 7, 2012

Swingle announced he would resign as Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney to become a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office.

-- Compiled by Sharon Sanders

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