A Rapid City woman who would have spent the rest of her life in prison if she was found guilty during a second murder trial is now facing a maximum of 10 years in prison after taking a special plea deal for fatally stabbing her nephew.
A Pennington County jury couldn't decide during a May trial if Lorraine Swallow, 33, was guilty of second-degree murder for stabbing 28-year-old Tyrell Bull Bear early in the morning of Dec. 8, 2018. Swallow, who said the stabbing was in self defense, was scheduled for a second trial next month. If found guilty, she would have been sentenced to the mandatory punishment of life in prison without parole.
But on Friday afternoon, Swallow entered an Alford plea to second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In an Alford plea, the defendant is found guilty and admits evidence would likely convince a jury or judge to find them guilty, but is able to maintain their innocence by not personally admitting to the crime.
Defense lawyer Angela Colbath will be free to ask for any sentence while Prosecutor Stacy Wickre will ask for a prison sentence, but not a specific amount of years, according to the plea deal. Wickre will also be able to discuss the evidence she has against Swallow.
Judge Matt Brown called the deal a "significant benefit to Ms. Swallow" and said there's enough evidence that a jury would likely convict her of the murder or manslaughter charge. Colbath agreed that the deal was beneficial to Swallow and said her client, who maintains she was "acting in self defense," considered the significant difference in sentencing possibilities in taking the deal.
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"We secure the conviction and we allow the family to get closure," Wickre said after the hearing when asked why she agreed to the Alford plea and the lesser conviction of second-degree manslaughter.
Wickre said Bull Bear's family felt that the agreement would bring closure.
"It was a hung jury so it was a gamble" to go to trial again, she added.
Swallow and Bull Bear's family members are expected to testify during Swallow's two-hour sentencing at 10 a.m. on Sept. 9.