Jake Russell’s Murderer Sentenced to Life in Prison


Life in prison. Without the opportunity for parole. I sat through the sentencing hearing and cried when the details for each of the felony charges were read. There were things that were heard that cannot be unheard. Horrible things that happened to my nephew, Jake Wayne Russell, on August 16, 2012. That was the night Jake died. He was only four years old at the time of his death and now that I’ve heard the devastating details of what happened before he died, I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with it.

I’m not going to go into the details, even though I can’t take back what I heard, I can make sure that no one else has to hear it. What you should know is that the monster that killed him will spend the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum security prison and he will not be able to murder another innocent child. This man, his father, who was supposed to love him unconditionally – murdered him. I can say that now, because he pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced in a court of law. All photos in the case have been sealed so that no one will be able to look at them again. They aren’t pictures that need to be seen anyway.

jake wm

The Haywood County D.A. and Assistant D.A. made sure that there was support for my sister and the whole family. They took the time to sit down with us, explain what was going to happen, and make sure that there was security everywhere, both inside and outside of the courtroom. I cannot tell you how much that helped our family during the sentencing. There were two women with us from the District Attorney’s office from the time we landed in North Carolina, to the time we left. They made sure that we had everything we needed and went above and beyond their duties.

After waiting years, to get the call that Michael Swaynghim had taken a plea deal was a call that I wasn’t expecting. The trial date had been pushed back a few times, but it was his attorney that contacted the D.A. to make this deal. After watching him during the sentencing hearing and listening to his hollow words, I know that he has no remorse for what he did. None whatsoever. He kept turning back to his family during court and telling them that he loved them and when asked if he had anything to say, he said he was only apologizing to Jake and that he loved his family. That’s it. The words really were hollow and there was no feeling or emotion.


To say that it was emotional day for our family would be the biggest understatement. I cannot put into words how much I appreciate everyone who made this plea deal and sentencing happen. To everyone who made sure that the family was there to represent Jake and to allow us to give a family statement to the court. Jake is never coming back. His light was taken from this world 3 years ago, but justice in this case has been delivered and we, as a family, can start moving forward from grief.

I should also mention, that Michael Swaynghim’s ex-wife Julia, is also charged in this case. She is still awaiting a trial and sentencing. She and Michael had two other children, in addition to Jake (my sister’s child with Michael), at the time of Jake’s death. Since Jake’s death, she and Michael have divorced and she has had another child with a younger man. All of their children have been removed from her custody.

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