Friday, December 6, 2013
ALFRED - Lynn Fortin, whose brother was stabbed to death outside a bar in Old Orchard Beach last year, told a judge Thursday that any sentence less than death for the man who killed him is "not enough."
Michael Swenson shows no reaction after he was sentenced in York County Superior Court to 38 years in prison for the stabbing death of Roger White outside an Old Orchard Beach bar on April 20, 2012.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
"I do believe Michael Swenson deserves the death penalty," said Fortin as photos of her brother, Roger White, were projected on a screen in the courtroom. "To me, justice will not be served until Michael Swenson is six feet underground."
Swenson, 46, of Scarborough, pleaded guilty June 21 in York County Superior Court to murdering White. He faced 25 to 40 years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement. Maine does not have a death penalty.
After hearing Fortin and others in a nearly two-hour hearing Thursday, Justice John O'Neil called White's murder "a senseless tragedy" and sentenced Swenson to serve 38 years in prison.
Swenson killed White, 49, outside The Whaler bar on April 20, 2012, after they spent the night there drinking heavily and playing pool before leaving together.
Swenson stabbed White four times, slit his throat and tried to hide his body under a mattress before returning to the bar 12 minutes later, according to police.
"It is highly likely at some point in this interaction the victim realized he was going to die," O'Neil said.
But the judge said there are "gaps in this case," with no known reason why Swenson stabbed White.
"It's more likely than not that this was part of a plan that was premeditated before leaving the bar," O'Neil said.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, argued that Swenson's actions, recorded by video surveillance, show premeditation in that Swenson moved an item, which she believes was a knife, from a lower pocket of his pants to an upper pocket while White was in the bar's bathroom just before they left.
Marchese said it took Swenson only 12 minutes to kill White, take off White's jacket and pull his pants down before putting his body under a pile of mattresses with no money left on him.
"Being back to The Whaler in 12 minutes, I would suggest that this was a thought-out plan," Marchese said.
White's body was found the next day by a resident of Old Orchard Street, near the bar. The resident saw a pool of blood near his door and noticed legs sticking out from beneath a pile of mattresses.
Swenson went to another bar after stabbing White and slept that night in a makeshift shelter in the woods.
In the morning, he went to a friend's house appearing distraught and nervous, and told the friend what had happened. Later that day, Swenson surrendered to police.
Swenson has been resigned to his fate since then, said one of his attorneys, Randall Bates.
"As much as he would like, he can't go back and take it back," Bates said.
Bates said Swenson is aged beyond his 46 years by a lifetime of drug and alcohol use and suffers from other medical issues.
"Michael doesn't believe he will be leaving the prison system alive," Bates said. "If he does, it will be as an old, sad, broken man."
Another of Swenson's attorneys, Joseph Mekonis, read a statement that Swenson had written before the sentencing hearing.
"Please know I give my deepest and most sincere apologies to the family of Roger White," Swenson said in the letter. "The choices I have made in life led me to this day, where I will never be able to forgive myself."
Swenson sat silently throughout the hearing, dressed in a light olive suit and patterned tie, showing no apparent reaction as the judge issued the sentence.
Swenson had no supporters in the courtroom. More than a dozen attended in memory of White.
"Words will never be able to express all the heartache I feel and all of those who are here feel," said Tammy Polley, who had two daughters with White.
Polley said she loved White "with all my heart and soul" for 15 years until his alcoholism drove her to leave him.
Christopher Chase, who described himself as White's lifelong friend, said he lives across the street from The Whaler and watched as the body was removed.
"At the time, I didn't realize it was Roger," Chase said. "But once I found out it was him, it haunts me. I can't get it out of my head."
Swenson's attorneys said after the hearing that they do not expect Swenson will appeal his sentence.
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: