Friday afternoon, a jury of nine women and three men took just under two hours to convict Shane Bailey of murder in the death of his long-time girlfriend Sarah Swaim.
Swaim, just 22 when she died, was found wrapped in trash bags and carpet on a burn pile at property owned by Bailey’s boss just a day after Bailey had reported her missing to police.
The same jury took just under 20 minutes to sentence Bailey to life in prison for the brutal crime.
Testimony during the trial showed that Bailey beat Ms. Swaim, the mother of his two youngest children, so severely that she suffered a torn liver. A medical examiner from Dallas said that is usually the kind of injury one associates with high impact events like a car crash or a fall from a very high place.
Ms. Swaim, the M.E. said, was also strangled so brutally that she bruised her own tongue while fighting for her life.
Grayson County Assistant District Attorney Kerye Ashmore said, after the verdict, that the case was one of the worst he has handled in his long career.
“It was a savage beating and very, very cold-blooded disposal of the body. (It was) a very calculating effort on the part of the defendant to avoid being caught. He was (caught),” Ashmore said. He added that good police work stopped Bailey’s plan to tell people the young mother had just abandoned her children and walked away from her life in Sherman. “There are a lot of communities where she wouldn’t have been (declared missing) for 72 hours and it is very fortunate that the officers took that initiative to do that. They did an excellent job in this case and the evidence was over whelming.”
Ashmore’s assistant at the trial, Matt Johnson, also praised Sherman Police officers and Texas Ranger Brad Oliver for their work on the case.
“I think that Nick Emmons and Riley Day deserve special recognition for the work that they did. And as well as Texas Ranger Brad Oliver. I always appreciate, in Grayson County, the cooperation we see between agencies. I think that it was that hard work and that cooperation that led to the discovery of Sarah’s body and the excellent way they went about collecting the evidence and preserving it, and the subsequent investigation as well. I think in a lot of other counties or agencies you know we might not have had that kind of immediate response that was needed.”
Johnson said Nick Emmons’ experience and training led him to suspect something wasn’t right when he arrived at the home Ms. Swaim shared with Bailey back on Feb. 7. Bailey told Emmons that Ms. Swaim had left in the middle of the night after an evening of drinking vodka had turned into an argument. Emmons looked around the home and saw freshly installed carpet, the young woman’s child, and her purse left behind. He testified that all of that just didn’t add up in his mind. So he called in other officers. One of those officers, Riley Day, opened the clothes dryer door and found the clothes Bailey claimed Ms. Swaim was wearing when she left. He also found several items that appeared to have blood on them.
Sherman attorney Rick Dunn represented Bailey in the case and said there were no winners Friday: “The victims family lost a daughter. The Baileys have lost a son. It is an unfortunate incident that … happened. I wish I had met everyone in different circumstances.”
Johnson said Bailey must serve 30 years of his life sentence before he will be eligible for parole.
“He will be 62 before he is eligible,” Johnson said.
Bailey’s mother, Dina Bailey, said she refused to believe that her son had killed Ms. Swaim and asked the jury to sentence her son to the shorter end of the punishment range that included five to 99 years or life so that he would have time to spend with his four young children someday.
Ashmore argued against that.
He asked jurors to send Bailey to prison for the rest of his life. “He has no regret, no remorse. It is hard to rehabilitate someone (if they don’t admit they did something wrong). Please keep him away from children,” Ashmore said.
He said if it were up to Bailey, Ms. Swaim’s children would have been left thinking their mother just abandoned them.
Ashmore then asked the jury to “send a message to people who want to beat on a woman or children,” in Grayson County by sending Bailey to prison for the rest of his life.
Dunn argued that people who are going to beat their wife or children are not going to be swayed by what a jury did in a particular case.
Johnson argued that sending Bailey to prison for life might help abused women in another way. He said those women might see the verdict as proof that authorities in Grayson County will take them seriously if they seek help in getting out of the situation.
In the weeklong trial, jurors heard from members of Bailey’s family who said they saw no evidence that he ever hit Ms. Swaim. In fact, some testified that it was Ms. Swaim who could be violent. Jurors also heard from other young women who said they had suffered at the hands of Shane Bailey. One of those young women, who asked that her name not be published in the newspaper, said that she considered herself to be lucky to have escaped Ms. Swaim’s fate. The 32-year-old woman said she dated Bailey back when she was much younger. She told the jury not to be fooled by his demeanor on the stand.
“He can be very charming and he was cute, at the time,” the young woman said in a rush. She told the jury that Bailey gets jealous and possessive of the women he loves. She also said he liked to pull them around by their hair and call them filthy names in screaming rampages. In one particular fight, the young woman said, Bailey picked her up by the throat and strangled her until she passed out. She said she finally broke away from him after he put her clothes in a bathtub and set them on fire.
“He is very calculating when he does things,” she told the jury. She explained that Bailey had a habit of picking his torture carefully like slashing her car’s tires or attempting to take away the dogs that she loved.
She said she knew how he acted when a woman tried to leave him, because she did it several times but she always took him back.
“He would sob and sob and say he would change.” But the change wouldn’t come, she said, and when he couldn’t control her, he would drive her out into the woods and tell her if he couldn’t have her, he would kill her.
When asked why she didn’t press charges against Bailey, the young woman said, “I knew he would sit in jail and plot (how to get revenge).”
The life sentence ended the murder case against Bailey, but many of the same people will return to the courtroom next week in a hearing to determine the fate of Bailey’s parental rights to his children. He has four by two different mothers. They range in age from seven to one year old. Two live in California with their mother. Ms. Swaim’s two children with Bailey are living with relatives.