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Murder case to be tried in Lincoln

Stepfather of victim found dead in cell Tuesday

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

A mother charged in the death of her toddler son is set to go to trial in Lincoln County next month.
On March 12, a Lincoln County jury will decide the fate of 23-year-old Kathy Lynn Swafford, of 867-30 E. Zion Church Road in Shelby, according to June Albright, trial coordinator for Judicial District 27B. Swafford has been charged in the 2009 death of her 2-year-old son Jeremiah Swafford.
While the case was originally scheduled to go to trial in Cleveland County where the incident occurred, a judge ordered a change of venue Feb. 1 following defense attorney Fred Flowers’ request two months earlier to change the trial location due to pre-trial publicity, authorities said.
The case already received ample publicity in Cleveland County in January after Swafford’s husband, Dwight Stacy Justice, was also tried for murder. Justice was Jeremiah’s stepfather, authorities said.
Swafford and Justice were arrested three years ago and each charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. According to various news media outlets, their son died at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte after suffering a severe beating, and it wasn’t the first time family members had seen bruises on the boy’s body.
While Justice, who was found dead inside his Cleveland County jail cell Tuesday morning, was found not guilty of first-degree murder on Jan. 30, authorities said he was found guilty of child abuse.
District Attorney Rick Shaffer told the Times-News that Justice would have been sentenced to between six and 12 years behind bars for the conviction, but a sentencing date had yet to be determined. A cause of death is unknown at this time, Shaffer said.
Shaffer said the State Bureau of Investigation will join with the District Attorney’s Office in investigating the death. Authorities do not believe foul play was involved.
“At this time there is nothing to indicate anything other than that the death was of natural causes,” Shaffer said.
Asst. District Attorney Bill Young served as lead prosecutor in Justice’s trial and will take on the same role in Swafford’s trial, authorities said. Because the case is still pending, Shaffer was unable to discuss further details about case evidence.
Swafford is currently being held without bond in the Cleveland County jail.

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