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Judge Approves Jail Release of Elderly Woman Charged with Killing Daughter Who Had ALS

Arraignment hearings are continued for two women charged in connection with the 2013 death of 52-year-old Heidi Good Swiacki

A judge agreed to release Marjorie Good, 89, from County Jail, where she was taken into custody after a criminal grand jury indicted her for a first-degree murder charge in the death of her daughter, Heidi Good Swiacki.
A judge agreed to release Marjorie Good, 89, from County Jail, where she was taken into custody after a criminal grand jury indicted her for a first-degree murder charge in the death of her daughter, Heidi Good Swiacki.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An 89-year-old woman charged with first-degree murder in the 2013 death of her Solvang daughter who had ALS will be released from the Santa Barbara County Jail on her own recognizance while her case makes its way through the criminal-justice system.

During a Tuesday morning hearing, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Gustavo Lavayen agreed to release the elderly defendant, Marjorie Good, after a request from defense attorney David Bixby, who said his client would stay with a family friend.

Good and Wanda Nelson, who also appeared in court with her attorney Tuesday, were indicted on first-degree murder charges of killing 52-year-old Heidi Good Swiacki, reportedly by tampering with her ventilator. Nelson is believed to have been Swiacki's caregiver. 

At one point in court Tuesday, the hearing had to be paused because the frail Good, who was sitting in a wheelchair, said her hearing aid battery had died. 

Although the judge granted Good’s release from jail, he ordered her to stay away from the Nyborg Estates neighborhood and her son-in-law, Stephen Swiacki, and grandchildren, Ashton and Christopher Swiacki.

Nelson’s attorney, Lori Pedego from the Santa Barbara County Public Defender's Office, noted her client had breast cancer surgery two months ago and asked the judge to ensure the jail maintains her follow-up treatment regimen. 

Nelson was arrested in New York, but appeared in the Santa Maria courtroom on Tuesday morning for the hearing. The arraignment hearing for both women was continued to May 22. 

Wanda Nelson, left, and her attorney, deputy public defender Lori Pedego, appear in court for an arraignment hearing Tuesday morning. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A criminal grand jury indicted the two women May 1, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. Before handing down the indictments, the grand jury heard from 33 witnesses, including 13 law enforcement personnel and Swiacki's husband and two children.

While sheriff’s investigators and prosecutors have provided little information about the case, some details can be gleaned from a blog that was started by Good after she was diagnosed several years ago with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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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