Real Name: Joseph Michael Swango
Aliases: The Doctor of Death, Michael Kirk, David Adams, Jack Kirk, Michael Swan
Wanted For: Questioning in Murders
Missing Since: 1994
Details: In July 1983, Michael Swango, a recent medical school graduate of Southern Illinois University, went to Ohio State University Hospital, but his performance during the first six months there put him on probation, meaning that he might never receive a medical doctor certificate. On February 7, 1984, shortly after he was put on probation, a sixty-nine-year-old patient named Rena Cooper suffered a mysterious seizure just after Swango checked on her recovery after surgery. As she was stabilized, she wrote that he had put something into her I.V.. A used hypodermic needle was found in a nearby room that he was seen leaving. Three different doctors confronted him, and each were told a different story of what happened by him. At one point, he even claimed that he was never in her room. However, Rena and her roommate claimed otherwise.
Although Rena survived, five other patients died mysterious deaths at the hospital during the spring. It was believed that Swango was responsible, but instead of calling the police, all they did was monitor him closely for the last few months of his internship. Although the hospital decided to let him go, his coworkers noticed that he did not seem to be troubled about it or the allegations of murder, and in fact, he brought several of them "extra-spicy chicken" as he called it. After eating it, several of the doctors became violently ill with their symptoms being similar to arsenic poisoning. Swango left the hospital in June of 1984 without being investigated, and no charges were ever filed.
One month later in Illinois, Swango began working as a paramedic and on September 14, 1984, he brought donuts for the whole crew; forty-five minutes later, they became violently ill. When they wanted to test the donuts, they found that the box was empty and it made them very suspicious; they were also suspicious because Swango was obsessed with accidents and death. Finally, they got him out of the building to check his gym bag, where they found two bottles of ant poison; one filled and one empty. When police later searched his apartment, they found more bottles of poison along with books on it, recipes for making it, and several syringes.
Swango was arrested, tried, and convicted of six counts of aggravated battery and sentenced to five years in prison, but he was released after just two years for good behavior. After his release, he went to medical vocational school in Newport News, Virginia, where three of his colleagues apparently fell ill. He later found work at the University of South Dakota Hospital where he was later dismissed. Finally, in August 1993, he resurfaced at Stony Brook University in New York and was assigned to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Island where he was under the alias of Michael Kirk.
On September 29, 1993, Swango met Elsie and Barron Harris. Barron was a sixty-year-old Long Island cabinet maker who had a fever of 104 degrees and slight case of pneumonia. Elsie claims that sometime during the night, Swango gave Barron a sedative. By the next morning, he had gone into a coma and was moved into intensive care. The eventual publicity of the incident led Swango to flee, but before he vanished, he told Elsie that Barron would never come out of his coma. He was correct; Barron died on November 9, 1993. Surprisingly, Swango has never been charged in connection with the mysterious deaths of his patients; he is wanted only for making false statements on a job application to a government hospital.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 3, 1995 episode. It was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted.
Results: Captured. In June 1997, Swango was discovered working in a rural hospital in Zimbabwe, where he could not be touched. However, he was apprehended at Chicago's O'Hare Airport when he returned to the USA to renew his work VISA. He was convicted of making false statements and defrauding a government agency; he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.
In July 2000, he was charged with the murders of Thomas Sammarco, George Siano, and Aldo Serini, along with assault against Barron Harris. They had all been patients of the Long Island Veteran's Administration Hospital, where Swango had worked during the early 1990s. He was also later charged with the 1984 murder of nineteen-year-old Cynthia McGee, who had died at the Ohio State University Hospital. Investigators had exhumed their bodies and found poisonous chemicals in them. Swango's diaries were also used as evidence against him. In them, he talks about how he enjoys committing murder.
In October 2000, Swango pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and was given three life sentences. He is now imprisoned at Supermax ADX Florence, and is in 23-hour solitary confinement. However, investigators note that circumstantial evidence links him to at least thirty-five deaths; they fear that he may be responsible for over sixty poisoning deaths.
- Michael Swango at Wikipedia
- Michael Swango at Unsolved Archive
- Michael Swango at Murderpedia
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- Life In Jail For Poison Doctor