Wednesday, September 20 , 2017, 7:15 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Judge Denies Motion to Throw Out Charges Against Mother on Trial for Heidi Good Swiacki’s Murder

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge says a jury should decide whether an elderly mother is innocent or guilty of conspiring to kill her daughter, a Solvang woman who had ALS.

Judge Rogelio Flores on Friday denied a defense motion to acquit 89-year-old Marjorie Good, who is being tried on murder and conspiracy charges in the 2013 death of her daughter, Heidi Good Swiacki.

“Clearly, what we’re dealing with here is a case involving circumstantial evidence,” Flores said before denying the motion.

“It’s up to the jury to determine whether or not there’s a reasonable interpretation of the circumstantial evidence in this case,” he said. “It really is up to the jury to determine whether or not the circumstantial evidence points to a conclusion of innocence, and the jury will have that opportunity.” 

Last spring, Good and her daughter’s caregiver, Wanda Nelson, were indicted by a county grand jury of conspiring to kill Good Swiacki, who was paralyzed from ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and relied on a ventilator to stay alive.

Prosecutors say the women tampered with Good Swiacki’s breathing machine and heavily medicated her to cause her death on March 25, 2013.

Nelson was gone from Good Swiacki’s home for 30 minutes to pick up a prescription for her, while her mother remained at the house. Good, who relies on hearing aids, said she was outside gardening and did not hear the ventilator alarm.

“She claims she never heard the alarm at all that day, not once,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser said. “But that’s just not reasonable.”

Ventilator records claimed the alarm sounded for 30 minutes — a span of time when Good did nothing to attend to the machine.

“The only reason you would do nothing to attend to it is because you have the intent to kill,” Gresser said.

“She was mad and she was angry because she was being kicked out, and she was helpless and there was nothing else she could do.”

Prosecutors allege Good Swiacki intended to ask her mother to move out of the house, and that Good was angry because she believed she had been written out of her daughter’s will despite being promised $30,000.

But defense attorneys contend the breathing machine malfunctioned and that Good Swiacki had a large amount of medication in her system since she had lived beyond the life expectancy of an ALS patient.

Santa Maria defense attorney David Bixby, who represents Good, said his client lovingly cared for her daughter through the years.

“It is just unfathomable to me that they would say that Marjorie Good would kill her daughter over getting kicked out of her house,” he said.

Good had given thousands of dollars to help her daughter, Bixby said, calling it “ridiculous” to allege she would kill her over $30,000.

He added that Good Swiacki’s son and his friends were in the backyard but also didn’t hear the alarm.

“We don’t know what happened,” he said. “We just know that nobody heard the alarm.”

Bixby argued that the prosecution had not proven the case against his client.

Flores, however, said the jury should weigh the evidence in the case.

Friday’s motion came after the prosecution rested in the trial, which began in mid-November with jury selection. Testimony in the case got underway in early December.

Separate panels will decide the fates of both defendants.

On Monday morning, Flores is expected to consider defense attorney Lori Pedego’s motion to dismiss charges against Nelson.

Defense attorneys will start calling their witnesses Tuesday.

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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >