The trial date for the fourth suspect in the 2012 killing of a disabled Prairie Grove man has been set for April 1 in Washington County Circuit Court, court officials said.
James Patton and three others were charged in the killing of Ronnie Lee Bradley, a Prairie Grove resident described by neighbors as disabled, by taking turns punching and choking him while driving in the area, according to court papers. Bradley lived on Cleveland Street in Prairie Grove.
One of the defendants, 36-year-old Heather Swain, was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 16 for being an accomplice to capital murder and 25 years for being an accomplice to kidnapping. In court, she cried as Judge William Storey sentenced her to life in prison. Immediately after the sentence, her daughter yelled in court, saying the sentence had ruined Swain’s life, and continued yelling in the hallway outside the courtroom.
Swain was found not guilty of a third charge of tampering with evidence.
Two other suspects in the case have pleaded guilty, 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.
Anthony Swinford, Timothy Swinford, Swain and Patton were arrested on suspicion of capital murder and kidnapping in December 2012. In January 2013, they pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in the Washington County Detention Center.
The investigation began when the Washington County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2012, 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.
According to court papers, Bradley told the suspects several times during the incident, “Please take me home.”
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.
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.
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.