The same day a Washington County jury found Heather Swain guilty in a disabled Prairie Grove man’s death, residents of the small town said they felt relieved the case is nearing a conclusion.
Swain was found guilty Wednesday of being an accomplice to capital murder and kidnapping. A jury found her not guilty of a separate charge of tampering with evidence. The defendant’s sentencing is scheduled for Thursday morning in Washington County Circuit Court, records show.
Swain was one of four suspects arrested in December 2012, accused of beating Ronnie Lee Bradley to death while driving him around in the back of a car.
“That kind of stuff does not happen here in this small town, so I am sure people are happy that those responsible for this are found guilty,” said Peter Himilton, a local man.
Two other suspects have pleaded guilty in the case, avoiding the death penalty. Timothy Swinford, 38, pleaded guilty in December to first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with an additional 30-year sentence suspended, according to court records.
On Nov. 5, his brother, Anthony Swinford, 36, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping records show. He was sentenced to 40 years on the murder charge and an additional 40 years on the kidnapping charge, with the sentences to be served consecutively, according to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Bradley’s neighbor, Mary Drain, said she knew the victim and is happy with the jury’s verdict.
“I have seen him step out and take his dogs out. He’d smile. He seemed nice,” Drain said. “I mean, that’s kind of scary, knowing that somebody got killed living right next door to you. But (the verdict) relieves a little bit of tension.”
With Swain’s sentencing coming up, some residents had their own views on what the punishment should be for the convicted killers in the case.
“They should pay for what they’ve done,” Drain said. “They should get quite a few years in prison.”
Bradley, a Prairie Grove resident described by neighbors as disabled, was beaten to death while the suspects took turns driving and punching and choking him, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office. Bradley lived on Cleveland Street in Prairie Grove. The car in his driveway has a license plate for disabled drivers.
Bradley told the suspects several times during the beating, “Please take me home,” the report states.
The Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 27 of a male body being discovered in the unpaved driveway of a chicken farm at 17409 Four Corner Road, records show. Responders determined the body was Bradley’s. He was declared dead at the scene, officials said.
In an interview with authorities, Anthony Swinford said he beat the victim and left him in the driveway. He also implicated Swain, Patton and Timothy Swinford as accomplices, court records show.
Anthony Swinford also rode along with investigators and pointed out the incident locations, according to a preliminary report.
Swain cleaned up the evidence after the suspects dropped Bradley off in a driveway, a report states. She also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
Investigators recovered bloody clothing and the vehicle used in the crime, according to the preliminary report. The suspects had marks on them that suggested they were involved in an altercation, a report states.
Three of the four suspects admitted to taking part in the beating, deputies said. Their admissions were backed up by witness statements, video evidence and physical evidence taken from the vehicle and the suspects’ homes, a report states.
The suspected murder came fewer than two weeks after Patton was arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of third-degree domestic battery. He was also arrested and convicted of domestic battery in 2008 and a previous charge of assault on a family member.
All the suspects have a criminal history. Swain has previously been arrested in connection with domestic battery, possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated. Anthony Swinford has a criminal history that includes charges of aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance, domestic battery, breaking and entering, theft, commercial burglary, terroristic threatening and violation of a protection order. Timothy Swinford’s history includes arrests on suspicion of domestic battery, endangering the welfare of a minor and driving while intoxicated.