Swayngim's bond lowered

Apr 22, 2013

A man accused of first-degree murder in the beating death of his 4-year-old son, Jake Russell, was granted a lower bond this week in Haywood County Superior Court.

Michael Swayngim, who has been in custody since his arrest in August, made a motion to lower his bond. Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts lowered it from $750,000 to $700,000 secured.

Swayngim’s charge came after emergency workers responded to a 9-1-1 call at his home on Aug. 16. He told authorities that his son had stopped breathing and the child was clinging to life when he was airlifted to Mission Hospital.

According to court documents, EMS officials on the scene “became immediately suspicious that Jake had been abused,” after finding “severe and numerous” bruises all over his body.

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 murder.

Swayngim’s wife, Julia, was also in the home at the time of the alleged beating, but she has not been charged with any crime.

He was indicted by a Haywood County grand jury for first-degree murder in January.

The complete autopsy report released last week reveals Russell suffered from several head injuries just hours before his death. According to the autopsy, the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries to the head.

The report notes 17 injuries on the child’s face and forehead including several bruises, scratches and cuts that occurred at different times. It also revealed bleeding and swelling in the brain.

There were several more cuts and bruises on his back and abrasions on his buttocks that appeared to have been inflicted by blunt force with a “long, flat object.”

Six of the injuries occurred less than four hours before his death and four more occurred between two and four days before.

In a recent letter from Swayngim to The Mountaineer, he continues to maintain his innocence and suggests that someone else could be responsible for his son’s injuries that led to his death.

The investigation in this case is ongoing. Swayngim’s next court date is scheduled for May 20 in superior administrative court.