Double-homicide trial under way

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published September 11, 2006, 10:08 a.m.)

"They seemed fine to me," Lindsey Gruling said of her grandparents, Duane and Carolee Recob, when she had Christmas dinner with them Dec. 23, 2003.

When she left the ranch-style house at 5694 Highway 11 that day, she didn't know that would be the last time she'd talk to them.

Duane, 74, and Carolee, 69, were found dead in their home Feb. 29, 2004.

Lindsey, 21, and her sister, Ashley Swope, went there because they hadn't heard from the Recobs since the family Christmas.

There were no cards from them on Valentine's Day, which was unusual, Lindsey said.

She tried calling, but there was no answer.

She asked her dad, Craig A. Swope, why they wouldn't pick up.

"He told me they were busy or had their phone off the hook or were resting," Lindsey recalled.

Police came to the house that February afternoon after Lindsey and Ashley called from a neighbor's.

Officers broke through a locked door and found Duane in a living room recliner and Carolee in bed with a blanket over her. It was obvious they were dead for some time.

Months of investigation led to Craig Swope's arrest. He stands charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and faces two life sentences if convicted.

His trial started Friday. Lindsey was the prosecution's first witness.

"There is a very logical explanation to a very sad, cold and illogical crime," District Attorney Phil Koss said in his opening statement. "We'd like to think this doesn't happen. We'd like to think someone would not do this to their parents."

Koss said evidence shows the Recobs died about Jan. 3 or 4, 2004. Experts will testify that their deaths are not coincidental, but are homicides, likely by smothering, Koss said.

Swope told police he found his parents dead on Jan. 11 and subsequently stole about $43,000 from their bank accounts with forged checks. He has maintained his innocence as to the alleged homicides, defense attorney Patrick Cafferty said. Swope is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for the forgeries.

"Much of what (the prosecution) presents through its two experts ... is speculation," Cafferty said in his opening. "It's basically overreaching in an effort to shore up a case that does not have any direct evidence of Craig Swope being involved with the death of these two people."

Evidence will show that Swope knew his parents were dead and that he stole money from them, Cafferty said. Swope, 53, of 2095 Emery Court, No. 7, East Troy, admitted it and knows that what he did was "despicable," he continued.

"But in all of the statements taken by law enforcement officials, not one time did he say he killed his parents," Cafferty said.

Swope's trial is expected to last through Friday. Koss has 22 more witnesses scheduled to testify starting Monday morning. They include family members, police officers, a forensic pathologist, an FBI crime scene investigator who is expected to testify that the deaths looked staged and several others

Koss said Duane's glasses were slightly askew on his face when police found him. Carolee was in her bed, but the blanket that covered her was tucked in and perfectly situated on the bed.

The pathologist who conducted the autopsies feels the Recobs are murder victims.

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