- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - One of two men accused of conspiring to kill a South Dakota man in North Dakota was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison but with the possibility of parole.

Theo Crowe, 26, pleaded guilty in October to felony conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the killing of John Swain, 18, the Bismarck Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1j630WM ). Swain was reported missing in mid-May after moving to Bismarck from Sioux Falls, S.D., in search of work.

Crowe’s co-defendant, Joshua Clark, 20, pleaded not guilty to the same charge, and his case is scheduled for trial in March.

Investigators say Clark and Crowe lured Swain into Crowe’s Bismarck apartment, struck him with a hammer, cut off his legs, cleaned up the scene and hid his body. Swain’s body was found in June at the home of Crowe’s grandmother in Poplar, Mont., authorities said.

“It’s destroyed my family,” Swain’s older cousin, Jenny Thorson, said Tuesday at the sentencing hearing. “You see these things happen on TV all the time, but I never thought it would happen to me.”

Swain’s older brother, Ben Swain, told Crowe, “Your decision for a thrill has taken (Swain) from us.”

Ben Swain said though his parents raised him in a Christian household and taught forgiveness, “there is no forgiveness in my heart.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Pam Nesvig said the state recommended life with the possibility of parole based on Crowe’s criminal history of violent offenses and substance abuse. Parole is a possibility only because of his cooperation after his arrest, she said.

Blake Hankey, Crowe’s attorney, disputed that Crowe had a long history of violence.

Crowe grew up with in the Popular area and was exposed to violence and abuse since childhood, Hankey said. He also has a history of mental issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, Hankey said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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