SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (KMTR) - Angelica Swartout is a free woman following her verdict Thursday, with some people overjoyed that she was found "not guilty," others saying her acquittal was wrong.
Sergeant Dave Lewis with the Springfield Police Department was heavily involved in the Swartout case from the beginning. He told NewsSource 16 how they took the reports about Swartout, from her family, and how they followed up.
"They came and talked to me, they told me the story," he said. "It was a little over seven weeks after the fact that she had had the baby so we went out and spoke to the source. We asked her that night - she didn't know we were coming - she told us she had a stillborn baby, initially, at the hospital. When I told her the hospital had been checked, she changed that story, obviously. First it was that she had a premature baby, then it was a stillborn baby. It kept changing."
He vividly recalled interviewing her and even Swartout's confession that she killed her newborn son and threw him in a dumpster.
"She found out that we knew what she was telling us wasn't true. The next day we brought her down to the station - we let her stay at work that night - we had a further interview. That interview is out there for everyone to see, video and audio tape. She confessed to having the baby in the motel bathroom and ending its life and putting it in a dumpster," Sgt. Lewis said.
Sgt. Lewis took the stand in both trials explaining this to each jury. In the original trial, 11 out of 12 jurors were ready to put her in prison, but one juror held up the decision. The jury was hung and there was an order for a retrial.
Still, Sgt. Lewis said most of the time in his experience, when there has been a confession, the confession has been the truth.
"They base their story on what they think you know. When you know things that they're saying aren't true, their story gets closer and closer to the truth each time. At some point when they realize they're out of things to say, you already know they aren't true, then the truth comes out," he said.
Sgt. Lewis said that he was shocked when the verdict came in, not just because of how quick it happened, but because he was expecting her to be found guilty.
"I did have an expectation," he admitted. "I thought she would be found guilty. Its hard for me, it defies common sense for me to have the video tape and the audio tape confession of the birth and the murder of a child be totally discounted. But obviously, that happened."
Sgt. Lewis told NewsSource 16 regardless of the verdict in this case, he still feels confident Springfield Police did as they should and added he has no regrets.
""I would not personally take someone to jail if I wasn't sure they did what I was taking them in for," he said.
Sgt. Lewis said the whole staff at Springfield Police Department upholds that same theory.
"Having said that, I still sleep well at night knowing we did the right thing. But the justice system is made this way, we've known that going in and we'll live with the result good or bad," Sgt. Lewis said.
Later in the day Friday, Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner e-mailed NewsSource 16 his official statement regarding the verdict:
"We tried this case again because 1) We had no doubt as to the defendant's guilt, 2) 11 of the 12 jurors who heard the evidence through the first trial felt the same way, and 3) we have a duty to do our best to bring a murderer to justice, particularly if there's no reason to believe the case will ever improve.
Our justice system doesn't always produce the truth. It's designed to be weighted heavily in favor of the accused. That's a good thing, as our balance in favor of the accused is the surest way to reduce the possibility of an innocent person being convicted. The price we pay for that additional level of protection for the innocent is the occasional acquittal of a person who is in fact guilty.
It's hard to live with the injustice of a guilty person being acquitted, but that injustice is at least 10,000 times easier to live with than the alternative of a wrongful conviction of an innocent person.”
NewsSource 16 tried contacting one of the most recent jurors, along with the lone juror who halted a guilty verdict in the first trial. Neither of them returned our phone calls.
Swartout's attorney told media that she'd be staying in the area and hopefully go to school.