1 of 2 suspects pleads guilty in slaying; victim's body was found in Poplar

2013-10-27T00:15:00Z 1 of 2 suspects pleads guilty in slaying; victim's body was found in PoplarBy JENNY MICHAEL Bismarck Tribune The Billings Gazette
October 27, 2013 12:15 am  • 

BISMARCK, N.D. — Theo Crowe has admitted to conspiring to murder John Swain, saying he “went along with” Joshua Clark’s plan to kill somebody.

Crowe, 26, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit murder, while Clark, 20, maintained his plea of not guilty to the same charge and asked that his case be set for a five-day trial.

Swain, 18, moved to Bismarck from Sioux Falls, S.D., this spring. Swain's roommate reported him missing on May 14, after not seeing him since May 11.

Police believe Clark and Crowe lured him into a Bismarck home, hit him with a hammer, cut off his legs, cleaned up the crime scene and disposed of his body in Montana.

Investigators serving search warrants at Crowe's grandmother’s home in Poplar on June 26 found the remains of Swain's body.

Crowe told South Central District Judge Donald Jorgensen that Clark wanted to kill somebody, and Crowe didn’t believe him but went along with it anyway.

“We did, in fact, go through with what he conspired to do,” Crowe said.

“And what was that?” Jorgensen asked.

“To murder, your honor,” Crowe replied.

Jorgensen ordered a presentence investigation and psychological evaluation be completed in the case. Defense attorney Blake Hankey asked that sentencing be scheduled for at least two hours to allow multiple witnesses to testify.

Clark’s attorney, Kent Morrow, asked that Clark’s trial be scheduled for five days, and Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Pam Nesvig asked that questionnaires be sent to potential jurors to expedite jury selection. Jorgensen ordered that any pretrial motions by the defense be filed by the end of October.

Both Crowe and Clark previously admitted to involvement in Swain’s death. According to transcripts of hearings for search warrants, Clark initially told investigators Crowe killed Swain with the hammer, then threatened Clark into helping him cut off Swain's legs. Clark later confessed to hitting Swain in the head at least once with the hammer.

Crowe initially would not talk to investigators but told them he wanted to confess when they returned to get a DNA sample from him at the Williams County Correctional Center, where he had been held on unrelated charges, the transcripts said.

He told them he and Clark had talked on May 10 about killing someone, then talked on May 11 about finding someone to kill. Crowe said the men took turns striking Swain, whom they met in a park in Bismarck, in the head with a hammer, then cut off his legs.

Crowe's wife also told investigators Crowe had told her he killed someone, but he told her it was in self-defense.

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