Teen accused in Iowa shootings was on probation

Published 7:54 am Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa  — A teenager accused of killing two clerks at different convenience stores in northern Iowa had previous run-ins with police in his suburban Minneapolis hometown and was on probation for theft.

Michael Richard Swanson, a 17-year-old from St. Louis Park, Minn., was charged Tuesday as an adult with two counts each of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in slayings in Kossuth and Humboldt counties.

Authorities accuse Swanson of walking into two convenience stores Monday night wearing a ski mask, demanding cash and in one case cigarettes. They say he shot the clerks even after they complied with his demands.

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Authorities have not said why Swanson was in Iowa. Carolyn Marinan, a spokeswoman for Hennepin County, Minn., said probation officials received a call Monday from police in Swanson’s hometown of St. Louis Park saying he was missing, along with a vehicle from his home.

Swanson has just been released from the Hennepin County Home School after serving more than 100 days for a felony motor vehicle theft charge to which he pleaded guilty in July, Marinan said. As part of his release, he was put on probation for two years.

Information about that case is public because the charge was a felony, though other details about Swanson’s record aren’t public because of his age, Hennepin County attorney’s office spokesman Santo Cruz said.

Police confirmed they have had contact with Swanson in the past but said they cannot release details because he was a juvenile. Police records show previous calls to Swanson’s home, including five times this year, but it’s unclear who was the subject of the calls. One call in June was for “shots” and a call in July involved an assault.

Swanson was being held in Kossuth County on $1 million cash bond. The state Public Defender’s office, which was assigned to the case, declined to comment.

Prosecutors allege Swanson shot 47-year-old Vicky Bowman-Hall at the Crossroads Gas Station on U.S. Highway 18 in Algona around 9 p.m. Monday. About an hour later, Swanson walked into a Kum and Go convenience store in Humboldt, about 30 miles south of Algona and shot and killed Sheila Myers, 61, Kossuth County Attorney Todd Holmes said during a news conference in Algona.

Holmes said no link was found between the stores. He declined to disclose some details about the shootings, including whether others were in the stores at the time.

Swanson, who was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was arrested at a McDonald’s in Webster City, about 60 miles from the first shooting.

Lisa Abens, director of operations for Wessles Oil Company, which owns the Algona gas station, said in a written statement that Bowman-Hall, an assistant manager, followed company policy when confronted.

“She did everything correctly but was still the victim of a senseless act,” Abens said.

Bowman-Hall’s daughter, Julia Krug, 24, said her mother had 11 children — ranging in age from 5 to 27— and seven grandchildren. Krug said her mom was the “rock” of the family, working 60 or more hours a week.

“She never asked for anything from anybody,” Krug said.

A phone message seeking comment left Tuesday at Myers’ home was not returned.

According to the court complaint, which was published on The Des Moines Register website, Swanson told police he shot the clerks so they could not call police or identify him. Officers recovered the stolen money and cigarettes as well as a handgun when they arrested Swanson, the affidavit said.

Calls to Swanson’s parents’ home number rang unanswered. The Associated Press also submitted a request to speak to Swanson with the Kossuth County sheriff, who oversees the jail.

Wendy Sulzer, a neighbor of the Swansons, said she was “a little shocked” but not surprised that the teen would be accused of the killings. Sulzer said she once caught Swanson breaking into a neighbor’s car and ran yelling after him before calling police.

“He’s probably gone more than he’s around — in juvenile detention — but when he is around, there seems to be trouble in the neighborhood,” she said.

If convicted of the first-degree murder, Swanson would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.