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1988 MURDER Michael Swiger starts arson term



Published: Wed, January 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Pratt family had objected to the man's release.

MERCER, Pa. -- Michael Swiger, convicted in the 1988 murder of a Munhall, Pa., man, will serve at least one more year in prison before he can be set free.

Swiger, 36, of Tiltonsville, Ohio, is being transported this week from an Ohio prison to the custody of the Pennsylvania State Department of Corrections to serve a one- to five-year arson term for the 1988 torching of a Greenville furniture store.

He had been serving 21 to 53 years for kidnapping with a gun specification and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Roger Pratt of Munhall, Pa. He was granted parole Jan. 2.

Swiger's brother Edward lured Pratt, his roommate at Thiel College in Greenville, from his home in Munhall to a remote area of Summit County, Ohio. There, Edward attacked and fatally beat Pratt.

Michael Swiger, who was an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said his brother did the killing and that he only watched. The murder went undiscovered for a year.

Many objected

Pratt's family and other supporters had objected to Swiger's release after serving 15 years of his sentence.

However, Ohio law at the time of Swiger's conviction required a convict to serve only eight months for each year of his sentence.

Officials said Swiger had a good prison record and has earned three college degrees, written two novels and done extensive community service while in prison.

Swiger will now begin serving one to five years for the arson of a Greenville furniture store.

Authorities have said that Pratt was killed to prevent him from telling police what he knew about that arson, which Edward Swiger planned so that his girlfriend, Linda Karlen, who was part-owner, could collect insurance money.

Karlen has just completed serving seven to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and now will serve five to 10 years for the arson.

Different law

Mercer County District Attorney James Epstein said Swiger and Karlen cannot be released before their minimum terms are served because unlike Ohio, Pennsylvania law does not provide for shock parole. They will only be given credit for any time they served in local jails while awaiting court disposition of their cases.

Epstein said Michael Swiger and Karlen will go directly to custody of the state Department of Corrections. He said he does not know which facility they will serve their sentences in.

Since the arson sentence was imposed in Mercer County, the county will be notified when Swiger and Karlen become eligible for parole. The county, as well as other interested parties, has the right to comment at that time.

Edward Swiger, 38, is serving 40 years to life for murder with a gun specification and kidnapping. On his release, he faces seven to 18 additional years in Pennsylvania for arson and other charges.




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