A convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison for clubbing his family to death and burning down their Brunswick home in 1977 once again has been denied parole.
Michael Swihart, who was 18 in 1977, was convicted the following year of aggravated arson, the aggravated murder of his 9-year-old brother and the murders of his mother and teenage brother.
Swihart, now 55, originally received the death penalty, but the 9th District Court of Appeals reduced his sentence to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 15 years.
He has appeared before the Ohio Parole Board several times and has been denied each time, which led him to file with the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, arguing his case has not been fairly considered by the parole board and that his constitutional rights were violated.
Specifically, Swihart argued the parole board modified his sentence to life in prison with no eligibility for parole by conducting “sham” hearings.
The appellate judges in their ruling sided with the parole board, explaining the panel was allowed to consider during each and every hearing how serious Swihart’s crimes were when deciding whether to release him.
Swihart killed his family on Oct. 23, 1977. He was arrested after four charred bodies — those of his father, Donald, 41; mother, Sue, 40; brother, Brian, 16; and brother, Russell, 9 — were found in the burned-out Westchester Drive home.
At a four-day trial in spring 1978, a confession by Swihart to police revealed he swung a baseball bat in the living room and accidentally hit his father. His mother and teenage brother ran into the room, and he said he “just kept swinging” and killed them.
He said the youngest brother, Russell, was outside playing at the time. He told police he took Russell to the store because he didn’t want the boy to see what had happened — but upon returning, Russell ran inside and Swihart said he “had to hit him.”
The next thing Swihart knew, he said he was lighting a match and “everything exploded.”
Swihart’s attorneys argued the father’s death was unintentional and the others were not committed with prior intent.
Swihart, who was a freshman pre-medical student at Miami University at the time, pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity, but a three-judge panel found him guilty and sane at the time of the killings. He was acquitted of his father’s slaying.
Swihart is being held at Madison Correctional Institution in London, about 30 miles west of Columbus.