Leader in 1988 standoff released
Addam Swapp, the central figure in a 1988 standoff that left a Utah corrections officer dead, was paroled from prison Tuesday.
The Utah Board of Pardons in April announced that Swapp, 52, would be released this month after spending 25.5 years in prison for events that culminated in the death of Officer Fred House. Much of his prison time was spent at the Phoenix Federal Correctional Institution. Swapp was returned to Utah on July 3, housed at the Utah State Prison for two days and then released Tuesday from the Sanpete County Jail, officials said.
"We were careful about not releasing his location and specific details of his release in advance ... in deference to the safety of everyone involved his, our staff's, the jail's staff, his family," Steve Gehrke, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, said Tuesday. "It was pretty standard. We generally parole every Tuesday, and if an inmate is housed in a county jail and it's convenient for family to pick him/her up there, we arrange it at that location."
At a parole hearing in September, Swapp said he planned to join his wife, Charlotte, in Fairview, where his parents, a brother and other relatives also live. In prison, Swapp worked as a computer quality-assurance clerk and said he hoped to parlay that into a job.
"Words can't describe the feeling of waiting," his son John Swapp told KUTV-Ch. 2 on Tuesday afternoon. John Swapp added that his father's attitude "right now is make peace with everyone and everything. He doesn't want any trouble."
Swapp served 17 years on federal charges of destruction by explosive and attempting to kill a federal officer. He completed that sentence in 2006 and then began serving a state sentence of one to 15 years for manslaughter. Because his crime involved the death of a law enforcement officer, Swapp served his state sentence outside of Utah.
The parole board said factors favoring Swapp's release were his acceptance of responsibility, remorse he had shown and steps he had taken to rehabilitate himself and participate in prison programming. The board also noted that Swapp had a stable plan in place in the event he was released, as well as his employability, the fact he has a meaningful support system outside prison and that this was his first incarceration.
The 13-day standoff came after Swapp set off 87 sticks of dynamite at the Kamas LDS Stake Center on Jan. 16, 1988, blowing up the building. Swapp said at the time he was acting on a revelation from God and wanted to bring down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and resurrect John Singer, his father-in-law.
Singer, a fundamentalist Mormon, was fatally shot in 1979 after a years-long feud with local officials that began when he and his first wife, Vickie, decided to home-school their children. Singer had taken a plural wife six months before his death. He was shot by officers who had come to serve him with a contempt-of-court citation at his ranch in Marion, Utah, after pointing a loaded gun at them while retrieving mail.
Swapp married one of Singers' daughters in 1980 and then later married another, living for a time polygamously.
After bombing the LDS meetinghouse, Swapp holed up at the Singer ranch in nearby Marion with 14 other members of his extended family. The standoff ended when John Timothy Singer, Swapp's brother-in-law, fired a rifle as Lt. Fred House and another corrections officer prepared to release police dogs on the property. House was struck and killed. Swapp was wounded in the crossfire.
At his initial court appearances, Addam Swapp created a spectacle in a buckskin coat, made by his two wives, adorned with Indian signs, geometric symbols, nine feathers representing the years since Singer's death and, across the back, the "Banner of the Kingdom of God" flag Singer designed. In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune at the time, Swapp said he believed he was chosen by God to gather the American Indians for the second coming of Christ and that the resurrected Singer would gather the other tribes of Israel.
At a 2007 review of Swapp's case, Ann House, Fred House's widow and mother of their three children, said she was not convinced that Swapp had taken full accountability for his actions or changed his ways.
But at the September 2012 hearing parole board member Jesse Gallegos reported that House had sent the board a letter saying she now felt Swapp has served enough time a perspective he said had the most impact on his decision to recommend that Swapp be released.
"She now accepts your apology," Gallegos told Swapp, "and feels that enough time has been spent behind solid walls."
During that Sept. 27 hearing, Swapp broke down at times as he expressed remorse for his actions.
Swapp said that in 1988 he had an "Old Testament" mind-set that focused on the "letter of the law, it wasn't about the spirit of the law." He also viewed authorities as "my enemies."
"What I've come to learn is that how I acted was completely wrong," Swapp said. "I should not have done what I did. If I could go back and redo it, I certainly would. ... My recourse now, if I was back there, would be to simply find another place to live."
Swapp said that during the standoff he shot out floodlights and loudspeakers set up by law enforcement to disturb the family's sleep at night, but never shot at or directed anyone else to shoot at officers.
"I was wrong in all my actions, but I can say with an open heart, I never did shoot at any officers," Swapp said. But he said he was taking full responsibility because "the whole thing was set in motion because of my actions, therefore I'm responsible.
"I have great remorse for causing those circumstances," he said.
Swapp said the years spent in prison had changed his "core beliefs" and allowed him to focus on the pain he had caused others.
"I don't think there could have been any other way to reach my heart," Swapp said, "[except] through this experience. The very center of my belief is in the person Jesus Christ and through his word the New Testament. That's the pebble dropped into the pond. I try to have my actions governed by that.
"I am fully determined to live a life of peace, to be a blessing to my fellow man, [so] when I finally am buried and people reflect upon my life, I want it to be not what happened in the year 1988 ... but the man that I've become since I got out of prison," Swapp said, weeping. "So I can be a blessing to my fellow man and that when people talk about me, it will be with love in their hearts, not as some radical, not as some fanatic, but as someone who truly represented the teachings of Christ. That's what I want with all my heart."
When Gallegos asked how long someone found guilty of taking a life should spend in prison, Swapp answered: "If his heart's been broken, if his spirit's been crushed, if he has humbled himself and he feels with all his heart and soul that what he's done is wrong, that is a great factor that has to be considered. If that person hasn't changed, I don't have an answer."
Swapp read a long prepared statement at the end of the hearing, breaking down in tears often as he apologized to all those affected by his actions. At the top of the list was the House family.
"I'm so very sorry for having caused your family such deep grief and pain for all these many years," he said. "I was so wrong in what I did by blowing up the church and by resisting arrest. I know now that you [Fred House] only wanted a peaceful end to the standoff. I'm sorry that I caused you to miss out in life with your family and their love and society, especially in the lives of your children and in the love and companionship of your wife."
To Ann House, who did not attend the hearing, Swapp asked forgiveness for the deep heartache and solitary burden of single parenthood brought on by her husband's death.
"I'm so ashamed for what I've done to you," he said. "I don't deserve it, but I pray that one day you and your family might find it in your heart to forgive me."
He also apologized to House's children, parents and siblings, as well as his own family.
Swapp said he has "fully set my heart" on exercising the love and peaceful example set by Jesus in all his actions that "I might never again cause such hurt to another human being."
Gallegos cautioned Swapp that his future adjustment back into society would likely be difficult. He also warned Swapp to be wary of the kind of erroneous thought patterns that got him into trouble in the first place.
"Whatever happens in your life," Gallegos said, "you do not want to start up with those type of very deep-held and radical thoughts because, Addam, I'm here to tell you, if you start that up again, you will be remembered as the person from 1988."
Reporters Bob Mims and Michael McFall contributed to this story.