Wrongfully accused of conspiracy to murder her stepfather, Jessica Swearingen says she is determined to overcome the stigma and, God willing, one day be able to be a full-time mother to her child, work and finally find some peace.
Jessica Swearingen refuses to be defined by her past. As the weeks since being released from the Camden County Jail pass, she is taking it one day at a time, piecing her life and that of her family back together. Wrongfully accused of conspiracy to murder her stepfather, she is determined to overcome the stigma and, God willing, one day be able to be a full-time mother to her child, work and finally find some peace.
While she is no longer behind bars and is free to come and go as she likes, there’s still much to be accomplished before she feels normal again.
“I want to clear my name,” she said. “I want people to know I didn’t do anything. Until I was arrested, I had never done anything wrong, never been in trouble, never been in jail. Then all of this happened.”
On June 2, Swearingen, then a Sunrise Beach resident, was taken into custody during a traffic stop by the Camden County Sheriff’s Department. She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Her bond was set at $250,000 cash only.
The alleged plot was aimed at her stepfather, Jim Cadle. The alleged plan included using a prescription medicine in place of his prescription for diabetes. In the original charging documents, Swearingen's husband called law enforcement alleging she had asked for his help to kill her stepfather by tampering with his insulin. The case was handled by the Missouri Highway Patrol. An elaborate plot allegedly unfolded that included an undercover operation spearheaded by the Lake Area Narcotics Group at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Osage Beach with the man who was allegedly supplying the drug Fentanyl.
Swearingen said she was coerced into taking part in the undercover operation. She was scared and worried that if she didn't go along with the plot, the "man" was going to harm her. From the time she was taken into custody until her release seven weeks later when her bond was reduced to $10,000, Swearingen maintained her innocence as did her stepfather and mother.
If not for the efforts of Camden County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gilley and his staff, who painstakingly sorted through the allegations, Swearingen could very well still be sitting in a Camden County Jail cell, Cadle said.
According to Cadle, the family reached out to the prosecutor when their daughter was charged.
"Jessica has always been a good person," he said. "I am the alleged victim and I knew something wasn't right. When we heard what the charge was, I just shook my head, it just wasn't right."
Cadle said the system worked. The prosecutor's office did their job and did it well. They took their time to make sure they looked at all the information available. He said he can't say enough about how professional and thorough Gilley's office was in handling the case. Because of their diligence, Swearingen is having visits with her four-year-old daughter and will be spending the holidays with her family.
The Camden County Prosecuting Attorney has dismissed the case against Swearingen and the record of her arrest has been expunged. In a statement released by the prosecutor's office, Gilley said the decision to not pursue the charge against Swearingen is due to what prosecutors believe is a lack of sufficient evidence to secure a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the charge after reviewing the entirety of the case. Any further details regarding that decision cannot be released at this time.
Cadle said the experience has been difficult but, in the end, it has brought the family closer together. Swearingen has been a part of his life since she was 11. When she was arrested, she was 25. Cadle said he never once doubted her innocence.
Swearingen said it's hard to explain what happened. At the time she was scared and frightened.
"I'd never been in trouble and then there I am in jail charged with conspiracy to commit murder," she said. "I just want to clear my name. I want to be able to get a job and go on."
Although the charges were dismissed about two months ago, Swearingen said only those associated with the case knew until recently when the news started to circulate. While there are details that she isn't ready to talk about, she felt it was time to speak out. What happened to her was wrong but, at least now, she is getting a second chance. She hopes that, at some point, all of this will be behind her and just a distant memory, but until that happens, she plans to continue her efforts to clear her name and put her life back together. And she will, she says.
"I want the truth out there,"Swearingen said. "I never imagined going through something like this. I was working; l liked my job, and my daughter was getting ready to go to preschool and then this happens. Everything changed. It ruined my life for awhile but it is going to get better and I am going to get through it."