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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.

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