Mistrial declared in murder case of elderly Solvang woman
February 24, 2016
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.