At least one of the four defendants accused of beating a Prairie Grove man to death last year will get a mental evaluation to determine whether she is fit to stand trial, according to court documents.
Heather Swain, charged with capital murder, is scheduled to undergo a mental evaluation Oct. 3 at the Arkansas State Hospital in Little Rock to determine her mental capacity to stand trial. The move comes after a couple of trial delays and the defendant attempting to distance herself from her fellow murder suspects.
Timothy Swinford and Anthony Swinford, who also face capital murder charges in the case, also submitted motions for a mental evaluation, although no court orders show a decision by the court on their requests, according to court documents.
Swain’s attorneys filed a motion in Washington County Circuit Court in May requesting the murder suspect be separated from the other three co-defendants in the upcoming trial, a motion that was denied, court documents show.
The murder trial for the four defendants has been delayed twice. The trial including Anthony Swinford, Timothy Swinford, James Patton and Heather Swain was set to begin Aug. 19 in Washington County Circuit Court. The trial, however, was delayed until Jan. 13, 2014, according to the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Anthony Swinford, who has been jailed in the Washington County Detention Center on suspicion of capital murder since December, changed his plea in Washington County Circuit Court from “not guilty” to “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” in a document filed in Circuit Court earlier this month.
In the filing, Swinford’s attorney requests the suspect be committed to the Arkansas State Hospital in Little Rock for a 60-day mental evaluation.
Anthony Swinford, Patton, Swain, and Timothy Swinford pleaded not guilty at their arraignment in the Washington County Detention Center in January. They remain in jail without bond.
Ronnie Lee Bradley, a Prairie Grove resident described by neighbors as disabled, was beaten to death while the suspects took turns driving and punching and choking him, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office. Bradley lived on Cleveland Street in Prairie Grove. The car in his driveway has a license plate for disabled drivers.
Bradley told the suspects several times during the beating, “Please take me home,” the report states.
The Sheriff’s Office responded to a call at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 27 of a male in the unpaved driveway of a chicken farm at 17409 Four Corner Road. Responders determined the body was Bradley, and he was declared dead at the scene.
Deputies received information that Anthony Swinford may be involved in the suspected murder. In an interview later with authorities, Anthony Swinford said he beat the victim and left him in the driveway. He also implicated Swain, Patton and Timothy Swinford as accomplices, a report states.
Anthony Swinford also rode along with investigators and pointed out the incident locations, according to a preliminary report.
Swain cleaned up the evidence after the suspects dropped Bradley off in a driveway, a report states. She also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
Investigators recovered bloody clothing and the vehicle used in the crime, according to the preliminary report. The suspects had marks on them that suggested they were involved in an altercation, a report states.
Three of the four suspects admitted to taking part in the beating, deputies said. Their admissions were backed up by witness statements, video evidence and physical evidence taken from the vehicle and the suspects’ homes, a report states.
Swain and Patton live in the same home. Anthony and Timothy Swinford are also roommates.
The suspected murder comes fewer than two weeks after Patton was arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of third-degree domestic battery. He was also arrested and convicted of domestic battery in 2008 and a previous charge of assault on a family member.
All the suspects have a criminal history. Swain has previously been arrested in connection with domestic battery, possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated. Anthony Swinford has a criminal history that includes charges of aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance, domestic battery, breaking and entering, theft, commercial burglary, terroristic threatening and violation of a protection order. Timothy Swinford’s history includes arrests on suspicion of domestic battery, endangering the welfare of a minor and driving while intoxicated.