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Solvang ALS Patient’s Husband Testifies In Murder Trial

Stephen Swiacki said he didn't want his ailing wife to take antibiotics for lung infection

Stephen Swiacki testified Thursday in the trial of two women — Marjorie Good and Wanda Nelson — accused of murdering his wife, an ALS patient.
Stephen Swiacki testified Thursday in the trial of two women — Marjorie Good and Wanda Nelson — accused of murdering his wife, an ALS patient. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The husband of Heidi Good, a Solvang ALS patient allegedly murdered by her mother and caretaker, testified Thursday that he didn’t want his wife to take antibiotics, and instead believed she should let God decide her fate.

Stephen Swiacki testified in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria in the trial of Heidi Good's mother, Marjorie Good, 89, and her caregiver, Wanda Nelson, 63, who are accused of conspiring to kill her nearly three years ago.

Heidi had the neurodegenerative disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Prosecutors allege that Good and Nelson gave Heidi a large dose of sedatives and tampered with the ventilator the quadriplegic required to breathe.

Defense attorneys have blamed a malfunctioning ventilator for Heidi’s death.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser asked Swiacki whether he and Heidi had an argument about her taking antibiotics to clear up lung infections. 

“I wouldn’t say argument. It was a strong disagreement about her taking antibiotics,” he said. “I just felt that she should put her life in God’s hands as opposed to continuing to take the antibiotics.”

He said the disagreement occurred well before 2013, the year she died. Ultimately, the couple talked to a local pastor.

Prosecutors allege that caregiver Wanda Nelson, who is accused of conspiring to kill ALS patient Heidi Good, was angry that she was paid as an independent contractor, which left her with large tax bills. Click to view larger
Prosecutors allege that caregiver Wanda Nelson, who is accused of conspiring to kill ALS patient Heidi Good, was angry that she was paid as an independent contractor, which left her with large tax bills. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“I voiced the fact that I thought she shouldn’t take it. But I did make it very clear that it was her choice, and I would support her in whatever she wanted to do,” he added.

In the weeks before Heidi’s death on March 25, 2013, Swiacki said he acted childishly when he found out his wife was taking antibiotics after she initially denied doing so.

“My reaction when I found out she was taking the antibiotics despite her telling me she wasn’t going to, was I got pretty upset,” Swiacki said. “And I started pouting. I would ignore her. I would glare at her. When I was taking care of her if she needed something, I would huff and puff like a 12-year-old.”

He said he later apologized for his actions.

He said he learned weeks before her death that Heidi was taking the antibiotic Levaquin after seeing an entry on the log kept by the paid caregivers.

Heidi’s illness took a huge toll on the household. Swiacki recounted his own bouts of depression, thoughts of suicide and reliance on alcohol. 

The costly care ate through their children’s college funds, their retirement account and other financial sources. In all, the round-the-clock care added up to $100,000 a year.

He also described the relationship between Heidi’s mother and their son, Christopher, as “hot and cold.”

“There were times where she was the loving grandmother, and there were times where she took it upon herself to be the disciplinarian,” he said, explaining Good reportedly slapped Christopher in the face.

With tensions rising, Swiacki said, Heidi decided to tell her mother to move out of the house, reportedly intending to talk to Marjorie Good on March 25, 2013.

“Heidi made the decision that enough was enough, and she was going to ask her to leave,” Swiacki said.

He later became emotional upon recounting the phone call from his son informing him of Heidi’s death.

Prosecutors claim Good felt she was being excluded from Heidi’s will, and that Nelson was angry that she was treated as an independent contractor, which meant she owed a large sum of taxes.

Swiacki said Heidi wanted him to give her mom $30,000, an amount that later dropped to $25,000, under a verbal request made before their funds dwindled.

Upon Heidi’s death, he received a life insurance payout of $350,000. 

He didn’t give any money to his mother-in-law, he said Thursday, explaining, “She accused me of murdering my wife.”

Good’s attorney, David Bixby, asked Swiacki whether he “blasted” his wife in an email about lying regarding taking the antibiotics. 

“Because she lied to me,” Swiacki said.

He also acknowledged that he had discussed with his father,  a year before she died, why Heidi was “holding on."

“Do you recall your father being a part of those discussions and suggesting to her that she let go?” Bixby asked.

“No, I don’t, sir,” Swiacki said. 

Swiacki also denied that his wife was afraid of him.

“She feared my juvenile response,” Swiacki said. 

He also said he didn’t know whether Heidi had actually told her mom to move out of the house.

Additionally, he said told police shortly after Heidi’s death that he didn’t believe his mother-in-law was involved.

“I informed the police during my interview that I didn’t think she would be capable of creating such an heinous act,” Swiacki said. 

After Bixby completed his cross-examination of the witness, Nelson’s attorney, Lori Pedego, began questioning Swiacki.

The two juries and seven alternates will hear more testimony Friday morning in Santa Maria's Department 7 as the trial wraps up its fourth week of hearing evidence. 

Selection of the juries began Nov. 10, and attorneys initially expected the trial to wrap up by late January.

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.

Heidi Good’s husband, Stephen Swiacki, testified Thursday that he told police he didn’t think his mother-in-law, Marjorie Good, above left, was capable of killing his wife. Click to view larger
Heidi Good’s husband, Stephen Swiacki, testified Thursday that he told police he didn’t think his mother-in-law, Marjorie Good, above left, was capable of killing his wife. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
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