State Plans To Seek Death Penalty In Swaner Murders

By Betsy Finklea
The State served notice on defendant, Robert Lee Nelson, of their intention to seek the death penalty at a hearing a General Sessions Court on Thursday.
Nelson is charged with two counts of murder, two counts of possession of weapon during the commission of a violent crime, two counts of armed robbery, and burglary first degree in the December 2009 deaths of Walter and Mary Swaner, who lived at 2411 Dixie Acres Drive in Dillon.
After serving notice of the state’s intention to seek the death penalty, Deputy Solicitor Kernard Redmond also served a notice of evidence of aggravated circumstances. Both had been filed with the Clerk of Court’s office.
The hearing then moved straight into the arraignment. The defense waived the reading of the indictments.
When asked what his plea was, Nelson’s attorney stated that Nelson was pleading not guilty.
When asked how Nelson wished to be tried, his attorney responded “by God, country, and a jury of his peers.”
Judge Howard King said that Nelson was entitled to a second counsel who is death penalty certified and his attorney should contact the Death Penalty Resource Center to have one appointed.
At the time of their deaths, Walter Swaner was age 84 and Mary Swaner was age 80. The couple had been married for 52 years and were members of St. Louis Catholic Church in Dillon.
Detective Cliff Arnette told The Herald at the time of Nelson’s arrest that Nelson, who was 19 years old at the time, knew the couple and they knew him and that robbery may have been the motive.

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