Suspect admits finding parents dead

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published September 13, 2006, 3:08 p.m.)

With his own pen strokes, the suspect in a double homicide admitted taking money from his dead parents by forging more than 30 of their checks.

Testimony at the trial for Craig A. Swope, 53, of East Troy showed he revealed a lot to police after a two-month investigation into the deaths of Carolee and Duane Recob, his mother and stepfather.

Agent James Holms of the state Division of Criminal Investigation said Swope admitted finding the Recobs dead Jan. 4, 2004, in their town of Delavan home. Police did not discover the bodies until nearly two months later.

Holms said that according to Swope's confession, he touched both Duane and Carolee and found they were cold. Swope then sat in the kitchen for an hour looking through a family photo album before taking out the trash. He then grabbed the couple's checkbook from the den and left through the front door, locking it behind him.

Swope never told anyone he knew his parents were dead until May 3, 2004, the day he was arrested for the forgeries, according to the confession.

"I had hoped my parents would be found sooner than they were," Swope wrote in the confession, Holms testified. "I'm sorry. I loved my parents."

Swope was convicted of the forgeries and sentenced in December 2004 to 20 years in prison.

Even after confessing to actions that defense attorney Patrick Cafferty called "despicable," Swope has maintained he had nothing to do with his parents' deaths.

He repeatedly said "he had nothing to do with causing their deaths," Holms said.

"I asked him if he was being truthful," Holms added, referring to the day Swope confessed to the forgeries. "He said everything he told us that day was the truth."

Swope told police he had collected the couple's mail several times after finding them dead. Police found mail in Swope's apartment while executing a search warrant, and neighbors testified Monday they saw Swope's car at the mailbox and in the driveway several times until police found the couple Feb. 29, 2004.

Not telling anyone and taking the mail were an apparent attempt to continue stealing money from Duane, 74, and Carolee, 69, said Holms.

"He didn't know why he didn't call (police), but he thought Carolee and Duane would be found a lot sooner than when they were," Holms said. "He thought maybe the mail carrier would find them or notice something. That's what his response was."

Could it be carbon monoxide?

District Attorney Phil Koss on Tuesday used four witnesses to try to rule out carbon monoxide poisoning as a cause of death in the case of Duane and Caroloee Recob.

A furnace technician said he was at the Recobs' house in late September 2003 for a furnace check. Everything was fine, said repairman James Murray, formerly of Westin Mechanical.

When police found the bodies, the intake pipe had been cracked inside the furnace. More significantly, the plastic exhaust pipe had become separated at a coupling.

"Somebody would have to have bumped it, or moved it, or pulled it off," said Roger Weis, owner of Peck and Weis Heating and Cooling.

Still, the carbon monoxide levels inside the home when police arrived were within normal levels, according to firefighters who tested the air.

Police sealed the home for 72 hours after removing the bodies and left the furnace run. Afterward, carbon monoxide levels were within safe ranges.

Cafferty appears to be setting up a defense that carbon monoxide could have been the reason for the couple's deaths. He asked Murray several questions about a potential temporary blockage of the exhaust pipe caused by snow or ice outside.

Weiss didn't believe the carbon monoxide would have built up in the home because the Recobs' furnace brought in and circulated fresh air.

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