Mistrial declared in murder case of elderly Solvang woman

February 24, 2016
Marjorie Good

Marjorie Good

A Santa Maria judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a 90-year-old Solvang woman who is accused of murdering her terminally ill daughter. The mistrial occurred, in part, because jurors watched media coverage of a separate verdict in the case. [KSBY]

In 2013, Solvang resident Heidi Good died at the age of 52 after suffering from ALS for several years. Prosecutors say, prior to her death, Heidi Good was purposefully sedated and her breathing machine was disconnected.

Last spring, a Santa Barbara County Grand jury indicted Good’s mother, Marjorie Good, and her caregiver, Wanda Nelson. Last week, a jury convicted Nelson of involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted her of both first and second-degree murder charges.

Marjorie Good, now 90 years old, stood trial over the past two and a half months in front of a separate jury. On Tuesday, the jurors in her case announced they were deadlocked.

Judge Rogelio Flores ordered the jurors back into the jury room to continue deliberations. Flores then spoke individually with each juror before ruling they were hopelessly deadlocked.

Flores said the appearance of jury misconduct factored into his decision to declare a mistrial. He said some jurors had seen news coverage of the verdict in Nelson’s case and had discussed it in the jury room. That may have affected the jurors’ ability to come up with a verdict, Flores said.

Prosecutors are now determining whether they will retry the case.

Marjorie Good’s defense attorney, David Bixby, said he did not believe there was enough evidence to declare jury misconduct or a mistrial. Bixby said the 90-year-old woman should not have to go through another trial.

During the trial, prosecutors argued both Nelson and Marjorie Good had financial motives to murder Heidi Good. Marjorie Good was worried she was being taken out of her daughter’s will, prosecutors alleged.

Bixby argued prosecutors should not have ruled out Heidi Good’s husband, Stephen Swiacki, as a suspect in the murder investigation. Swiacki contacted escrow less than 16 hours after his wife’s death and asked for a check in his name, according to the defense. Bixby also said Swiacki receives a $350,000 life insurance payout.

Marjorie Good will return to court on March 21 for discussions of a possible settlement or new trial.

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Now we can pay another $150,000 for another trial. There is so little point to going on with this. What are you going to do to a 90 year old if she is actually convicted of something? She will file an appeal, the judge will grant minimum bail while the case is under appeal. The appeal wil take at least two years. She will be 92+ years old if she is still alive. Are we going to send a 92 year old woman to prison?

Release the caregiver. She gained nothing and had absolutely no motive to participate. She’s black, so a jury found her guilty. We can’t even determine if either of these women are still in their right minds or experiencing dementia.

SLO Johnny

The caregiver was only found guilty of leaving her patient (who needed 24/7 nursing care) unattended by going to the store. The caregiver admitted to this. How can you say that she was convicted because she was Black?

There isn’t going to be another trial. That is the way things are done in cases like this. No one comes right out and says “this was a mercy killing and the insurance would have been paid out in the end anyway”. So, they do this instead. It says “it is not okay to kill” and “we get why this happened” all in the same mistrial.

Let’s hope you’re correct.