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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 5:31 am | Fair 50º


Defense Rests In Trial Of Elderly Mother, Caregiver Charged With Murder

Defense attorneys for an elderly mother and a caregiver charged with conspiring to kill a Solvang ALS patient nearly three years ago rested their cases Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser then began calling rebuttal witnesses in the Santa Maria trial of caregiver Wanda Nelson, 63, and Marjorie Good, who turns 90 this month.

Prosecutors contend the women conspired to kill Good's daughter, Heidi Good, by overmedicating her and tampering with her ventilator on March 25, 2013.

Heidi had the progressive neurodegenerative disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and relied on a breathing machine plus constant care to stay alive.

At mid-morning, Judge Rogelio Flores dismissed the Nelson jury until Thursday, as the second panel — considering Good’s fate — began watching hours of video recorded interviews of the caregiver by law enforcement officers.

Separate panels have been hearing testimony in the trial where jurors may hear closing arguments as soon as next week, according to the judge.

The trial will not be in session Friday and Monday due to court holidays — President Lincoln’s birthday and Presidents Day. 

The defense attorneys rested their cases the day after Nelson wrapped up her testimony, which spanned parts of three days. 

While on the witness stand, Nelson blamed emotions as the reason for any apparently conflicting information she gave law enforcement officers in the days after her client’s death

“Keep in mind I had just lost my friend,” Nelson said, explaining she was distraught at Heidi’s unexpected death. 

Nelson on Monday got feisty at times as Gresser questioned her.

The caregiver was running an errand when Heidi’s ventilator stopped working while her elderly mother remained at the home but reportedly was outside gardening.

Nelson’s errand include a trip to Rite-Aid to pick up medication for Heidi, along with a birthday card, she said.

But the prosecutor asked why the caregiver never told Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department investigators about purchasing a birthday card and only mentioned it during her testimony last week.

“I didn’t feel I had to tell anybody I bought a birthday card so that’s why I didn’t mention it,” Nelson said. 

The caregiver also told of turmoil in the house, with physical altercations between Heidi’s husband and her elderly mother, including one incident in which the man allegedly grabbed a gun.

In the interview with law enforcement officers, Nelson said she told Stephen Swiacki to put the weapon away.

But he didn't walk out without telling his mother-in-law, "'You have another heart attack you old, gray, wrinkled lady,'" Nelson said.

"He was very nasty," she told a detective.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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