Angelica Swartout showed an ultrasound image of her unborn son to two people, a new prosecution witness told jurors Wednesday in the hotel clerk’s second trial for allegedly suffocating a newborn baby in October 2010.
Springfield resident Sarah Bishop did not testify in Swartout’s first trial, which ended in February with no verdict due to a hung jury. No other witness in either trial has reported seeing such an image.
Later Wednesday, the jury heard Swartout’s former Crosslands Hotel co-worker describe finding what appeared to be spattered blood and urine in employee bathroom trash cans when she arrived to begin one of her graveyard shifts. The co-worker, Shirley Hogan, said she also found bloody rags in the bottom of one of the waste cans. She said she asked Swartout, who was ending her swing shift, about the mess.
Swartout “kind of got teary-eyed and said she’d had a miscarriage,” Hogan told the jurors.
Hogan said she wasn’t certain of the date she found the bloody items, but a supervisor of both women testified Wednesday that Hogan complained to her on Oct. 19, 2010, about having to clean up the blood the night before.
Swartout, now 24, was arrested in December 2010 after confessing to police that she bore and smothered a baby in a workplace bathroom on Oct. 18, 2010, then placed his body in a hotel trash bin. Investigators searched a local landfill where that bin had been dumped seven weeks earlier, but found no child’s remains.
Swartout testified at her first trial that she never gave birth. She said she faked a full-term pregnancy after an apparent early miscarriage in order to continue receiving attention and support from her large adoptive family. She said she falsely confessed under police pressure.
If convicted, Swartout faces a possible life prison term.
Bishop, 34, described herself in court as a stay-at-home mother and the older sister of Swartout’s former longtime friend, Amber Reed. She testified that Swartout displayed the in-utero image of a male child at Bishop’s request, while they and Reed were together in Reed’s kitchen in “late summer” of 2010.
“Angie came in and said she’d had her ultrasound and that she was having a boy,” Bishop said. “I asked to see it. It looked like an ultrasound should … like there was nothing wrong with (the unborn child.)”
Swartout also told her she planned to name the baby Lucias, Bishop testified.
Reed testified at both trials that she observed Swartout’s belly swelling with pregnancy and that the two were such close friends that they joked about Reed being Swartout’s “Baby Daddy.” But Reed never mentioned seeing an ultrasound.
Bishop testified Wednesday that Reed was present but “trashed” from drinking heavily the night Swartout displayed the ultrasound.
Swartout’s lawyers appeared unprepared for Bishop’s testimony. Defense attorney Gordon Mallon initially objected when prosecutor Bob Lane called her as a witness, saying she had not been on a witness list the state is required to provide to the defense before trial. He later withdrew that objection, saying he’d found a court document indicating Bishop would testify.
He began his cross-examination of her by asking, “How is it that you saw this ultrasound picture and no one else did?”
“I wondered the same thing,” Bishop replied. She said she didn’t come forward sooner because she figured others would testify about the image. She said she contacted the Lane County District Attorney’s Office at the end of the last trial, after learning that no one else had testified to seeing an ultrasound.
Bishop also testified that she told a defense investigator before the first trial that she’d seen the ultrasound.
In a brief interview outside the courtroom after her Wednesday testimony, Bishop said the defense investigator “basically told me I was wrong” about seeing the image.
Swartout’s adoptive mother, Ruth Anne Staley, also testified Wednesday. She described how she came to have “65 children that I consider my children forever” — most through adoptions and foster placements with her late, first husband, Dennis Swartout, and her current husband, Tom Staley. Among the adoptees, she testified, were Angelica Swartout and two biological half-sisters. All three were born to another daughter adopted by the Swartouts a generation earlier.
Staley emphatically denied Tuesday testimony by another adoptive child — Swartout’s biological half-sister — that she treated her adopted teenagers harshly. She denied Liliann Swartout’s contention that Staley called her a whore and refused to get her medical care for a urinary tract infection after learning that the 18-year-old was sexually active. She also disputed Liliann Swartout’s contention that she and Tom Staley defied an adoption home study worker’s directive not to use a paddle to spank their children.
“We were told at that time that physical discipline is OK, that you can use anything you want that won’t cause injury or leave a mark,” Staley said.
She said state child protection workers have never removed a child from their home for abuse or neglect.
Staley described Angelica Swartout as an “adorable” small child who rebelled as a teenager.
“We’re kind of an old-fashioned set of parents, and she began to do things that we didn’t approve of,” Staley said.