Man convicted of wife’s murder
Woman drowned in the Caribbean
TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands - A jury convicted a Rhode Island man of murder yesterday in the drowning of his wife during a 1999 scuba-diving trip in the British Virgin Islands.
A judge will sentence David Swain on Nov. 4. He faces life in prison and would be sent to a Tortola prison where he has been held for about two years.
Swain did not react when the verdict was read, although the parents of victim Shelley Tyre gasped at that moment.
After obtaining permission from the judge, Richard Tyre walked to the witness box and clutched a microphone.
“We’re old, we’re in our 80s, and when Shelley was killed, our life pretty much ended,’’ he said in a broken voice. He then left the courtroom.
Defense lawyer Timothy Bradl of the Boston-based firm Denner Pellegrino said they would appeal the case to the Eastern Caribbean Court. He said he noted several problems during the judge’s summation, but did not provide details.
Swain was led out of British Virgin Islands Supreme Court to the flash of cameras, but made no comment as he entered an armored car.
His son, Jeremy Swain, held an impromptu press conference outside the courtroom.
“My father is an innocent man,’’ he said.
The nine jurors had four hours to produce a verdict under local law. Although only a seven-vote majority was required, Supreme Court Justice Indra Hariprashad-Charles urged the seven women and two men to issue a unanimous verdict after giving a three-hour summation of the case, and they did.
Prosecutors accused Swain of killing his wife so he could pursue a romance with a Rhode Island chiropractor, as well as to gain his wife’s inheritance, estimated at $630,000, and save his now-shuttered dive shop.
The prosecution presented experts who testified that they believed Swain wrestled his wife from behind, tore off her scuba mask, and shut off her air supply while diving near a shipwreck.
The drowning was initially ruled an accident, but authorities in the British Virgin Islands charged Swain with murder after a 2006 civil trial in Rhode Island found him responsible for his wife’s death.
That jury awarded Tyre’s family $3.5 million, but Swain filed for bankruptcy and has not paid the sum.
Swain was extradited to the British Virgin Islands the following year and had been jailed since.
Defense lawyers maintained that the poorly done autopsy report could not rule out medical reasons for Tyre’s death, including the possibility that she suffered a heart attack or stroke during what they contended was an accidental drowning.
The trial, which began nearly three weeks ago, was postponed last year after defense lawyers said they had trouble finding experts because of financial constraints.