After listening to a sternly worded warning from defense attorney Rick Dunn to stay seated at the counsel table, Shane Bailey took to the witness stand to tell jurors, in his own words, just how his long-time girlfriend, Sarah Swaim, ended up wrapped in carpet and plastic bags and discarded on a burn pile on Feb. 8, 2013.
Bailey had reported the 22-year-old mother of two missing the day before.
“I think it is a huge mistake to testify in this case,” Dunn told his client with the jury out of the room late Thursday afternoon. Dunn then asked Bailey if he had explained why he felt Bailey should not testify.
“You gave me your opinion,” Bailey said.
Dunn told his client that the explanation he plans to offer for the injuries suffered by Ms. Swaim “will not be plausible” to the jury and that prosecutors were just waiting to get a chance to bring up a number of issues with his previous statements.
Bailey remained unmoved.
“All I can do is tell the truth,” Bailey said.
After asking his client a few more questions and getting unclear responses, Dunn said, “One of my problems with you is you won’t answer my questions.”
A few sentences later, the defense attorney appeared to try to drive home his feelings on the matter.
“This is going to be the worst experience of your lifetime,” Dunn cautioned.
With just about an hour left before the court day ended, Dunn waded into his client’s testimony slowly by covering the 32-year-old’s background and barely touched upon the events that led to the trial before Judge Jim Fallon called it a day.
Jurors will hear more from Bailey first thing in the morning Friday.
Those jurors started the day Thursday the way they ended it Wednesday, listening to Medical Examiner Lynn Salzburger talk about the autopsy she performed on Ms. Swaim.
Salzburger said Ms. Swaim’s manner of death was homicide, and the means was homicidal violence. In layman’s terms, Salzburger said, Ms. Swaim died from blunt force injuries and strangulation.
When asked repeatedly if a lacerated liver, broken ribs, and severe bruising the young mother sustained could have come from either a fall or some sort of sexual accident, Salzburger said the types of injuries she saw in Ms. Swaim’s autopsy are generally the result of a car accident or a significant fall from great height.
More than once over the past three days prosecutors have asked about the likelihood that the injuries came from a session of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong. Salzburger said that was not at all likely.
She said the young woman was extremely intoxicated and had a blood alcohol reading of .328 when examined at the Dallas County M.E.’s Office. She said there was no indication that Ms. Swaim had taken any type of drugs the day she died. When First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore and ADA Matt Johnson finished their questions for Salzburger, Dunn asked about the young woman’s medical past.
He wanted to know if there was any indication Ms. Swaim suffered from any type of disease or disorder that might make her bruise easily or make bruises appear more severe on her body than they would on a healthy individual.
Salzburger said she did not get a medical background with the young woman’s body, but she did not see any evidence of any such disease. She said she did note that the woman’s liver had “fatty infiltrations,” which could have been the result of a chronic alcohol problem.
She did admit that liver problems might make someone bruise more easily, “but that’s a big might,” she added.
Dunn appeared to be laying the ground work for a defense that Ms. Swaim died as a result of a fall when he asked about each of the injuries she sustained and whether they could have come from a fall.
Salzburger said any one of the injuries could have come from a fall, but all of the injuries combined increased “the likelihood that there is a lot more going on than a fall.”