New details revealed in 4-year-old murder

By DeeAnna Haney | Nov 15, 2012
Michael Swayngim is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 4-year-old son, Jake Russell in August.

A recent search warrant reveals more details in the case regarding the suspicious death of 4-year-old Jake Russell in August.

The child’s father, Michael Swayngim, currently faces charges for second-degree murder and felony child abuse.

On Aug. 16, Swayngim called 9-1-1 around 8 p.m. and said his son had stopped breathing. When authorities arrived, they found Russell was limp and unconscious, but still had a pulse. He was airlifted to Mission Hospital and died shortly thereafter.

According to an affidavit written by Det. James Marsh with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, EMS officials on the scene “became immediately suspicious that Jake had been abused,” after finding “severe and numerous” bruises all over his body.

An autopsy conducted in Winston-Salem revealed the child died of blunt force trauma to the head, which caused severe swelling, according to court documents.

There were at least two traumatic brain injuries detected, one that occurred days before death and one that occurred at the time of death.

It was also confirmed that the bruises were between two and four days old and were inflicted at different times.

Conflicting stories

During the seven minute 9-1-1 call, Swayngim initially told authorities that Russell had recently fallen off a bunk bed and had “just now” fallen in the bathtub.

However, Swayngim continued to make several conflicting statements about the injuries found on the child’s body at the time of death.

He later told emergency workers that Russell collapsed in the hallway after his bath, then changed his story again, saying he found Jake gasping for air and convulsing after he put him to bed.

Although he originally told detectives he had only been caring for Russell a week after picking him up from his biological mother, he later admitted the child had been in his care for about a month.

Through investigation, detectives also learned Swayngim had visited Urgent Care in Canton the day of Jake’s death “complaining of hand pain from a punch that happened four days before at home.”

Russell's stepmother, 22-year-old Julia Swayngim, was home at the time of the incident, but charges have not been filed against her.

Following the child’s death, she told police that Swayngim had beat Russell with a belt and described an incident where she “heard Michael smacking Jake’s head into the wall.”

Swayngim was initially charged with possession of a firearm by a felon after detectives found several weapons in the home, but he was released on bond later that night.

Detectives arrested him again for felony child abuse and he was jailed under $90,000 bond.

After further investigation, detectives charged him with second-degree murder that evening, and he was placed under an additional $200,000 bond.

Swayngim has denied responsibility for his son’s death since his arrest and his family maintains that he has been wrongfully accused.

“Jake loved his daddy. Anybody could tell you when Michael was off from work he had his boys with him, always,” said his mother, Tammy Swayngim in a previous interview.

The investigation is ongoing. Swayngim remains in custody at the Haywood County Jail under $290,000 bond.