Michigan woman's conviction overturned after adopted son recants molestation allegations
11/30/2016 3:53 pm PST
UPDATE May 26, 2018:
Calhoun County agreed to a $1.9 million settlement with Lorinda Swain, who spent seven years in prison before her sexual assault conviction was thrown out. After the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 2016 and prosecutors dropped the case, Swain sued the county, saying her rights were violated when certain information gathered by investigators wasn't shared with her defense team.
It's the ultimate betrayal. A mother charged with sexually molesting her adopted son. And it's exactly what Lorinda Swain was accused of and put on trial for. Crime Watch Daily has new details on the controversial case that ripped apart a family.
Lorinda Swain has lived a parent's worst nightmare.
"I'd rather be accused of killing my parents then to be accused of molesting your adopted son. It's just so sick," said Swain.
She was shocked when cops entered her Lansing, Michigan home and placed her under arrest for sexually abusing her adopted son.
"When they first told me that Ronnie accused me of this, I told them 'I don't believe my kid said that,' and they guy said, 'Well I witnessed him saying you did it,'" said Lorinda.
It was a scenario 13-year-old Ronnie and his younger brother Cody cooked up. The older boy told police Lorinda abused him on a daily basis, starting when Ronnie was 7 years old.
"The story they came up with, that I'd wake both children up, dress them both, and then I would supposedly send Cody out to wait for the bus by himself and then I would molest Ronnie," said Lorinda.
Hearing that her eldest son made such disgusting accusations shook Lorinda to the core. She adored her sons, whom she adopted when they were babies.
Life wasn't always easy. Lorinda served several months in prison on a drug charge. Despite her problems, she tried her best to provide a stable environment.
"They had food, love and toys," Lorinda said. "They were very spoiled and very loved and they knew it."
So why would Ronnie, a boy who was so loved by his mom, say he was abused by her?
Turns out the 13-year-old made the accusation while Lorinda was in jail and the boys were staying with their dad.
The story is layered with accusations. One day, Ronnie's stepmother confronted him, claiming a young female relative told her Ronnie had molested her. Ronnie, terrified of getting in trouble, made up the story about his mom.
"If I hadn't used drugs, I wouldn't have ended up in these shoes, most likely because my son wouldn't have ended up at my ex-husband's house and he wouldn't have molested that little girl," said Lorinda.
Lorinda would only learn much later that the accusations against Ronnie were true.
But just a few days after returning home from prison, police entered her home and made the arrest, charging her with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct based on Ronnie's story.
"I thought my nightmare was over and I got home and two days later I found out I had no idea what a nightmare was," said Lorinda.
Lorinda found herself back in prison facing trial. But just before appearing in a courtroom, Ronnie made a shocking admission while spending a night with Lorinda's parents.
"My dad had a tape and asked them and you know, he told the truth that 'mom didn't do anything,'" said Lorinda.
But the taped confession wouldn't save Lorinda. On the witness stand Ronnie burst into tears. The truth never came out.
"The reason he was crying is 'cause he feels so guilty saying such a terrible lie, but to the 12 strangers, they thought probably he was crying because he really had been molested," said Lorinda.
The jury convicted Lorinda on all charges. She was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison. Two years after the trial, their mom still sitting in prison, Ronnie recanted his story, even writing a letter admitting he lied, but was told his admission came too late.
"Lorinda's case was certainly one of our more difficult cases," said Imran Sayed, assistant clinical professor of law in the Michigan Innocence Clinic.
The judge ruled Lorinda deserved a new trial. The case dragged on for years, ultimately heading to the state supreme court. Soon after that, prosecutors decided to drop all charges against Lorinda Swain.
It's been more than a decade since that horrible day. Incredibly, Lorinda says she forgives her boys, but admits there is a bitter residue that won't go away.
"I do love 'em and I do forgive 'em," said Lorinda.