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 Flowersâ€™ 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 Swaffordâ€™s husband, Dwight Stacy Justice, was also tried for murder. Justice was Jeremiahâ€™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 wasnâ€™t the first time family members had seen bruises on the boyâ€™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 Attorneyâ€™s Office in investigating the death. Authorities do not believe foul play was involved.
â€œAt this time there is nothing to indicate anything other than that the death was of natural causes,â€ Shaffer said.
Asst. District Attorney Bill Young served as lead prosecutor in Justiceâ€™s trial and will take on the same role in Swaffordâ€™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.