Scuba Killer waits Extradition order

Posted on November 16, 2007 by Scuba Herald

A Rhode Island dive shop owner is facing extradition to the British Virgin Islands, where he is accused of killing his wife during a scuba diving trip in 1999. more stories like this US marshals arrested David Swain yesterday at his business in Jamestown, then brought him handcuffed and shackled into federal court in Providence for a hearing before Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond.

Swain will remain in custody until a full extradition hearing on Nov. 21, said Tom Connell, spokesman for the Rhode Island US attorney’s office.

Public defender Kevin Fitzgerald represented Swain yesterday in court. Fitzgerald could not be reached last evening, but Swain has previously maintained his innocence.

US prosecutors said in a statement that a judge in the British Virgin Islands issued a murder warrant for Swain on Tuesday. The 1999 death had been previously ruled an accidental drowning. Island officials said they would accept the ruling “unless proven otherwise.”

Shelley Tyre, a seasoned diver, went diving to explore two wrecks with Swain off the island of Tortola. Swain surfaced alone after a half-hour under water. Minutes later, Tyre’s lifeless body was found in 80 feet of water.

In 2002, Tyre’s parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Swain. In February 2006, a civil jury in Providence found Swain liable and awarded the Tyres $4.8 million in the case.

J. Renn Olenn, a lawyer representing the Tyres, said yesterday that Swain never paid the money, declared bankruptcy, and has an appeal pending of the court decision. The Tyres felt as if “they never got any justice,” until yesterday, he said.

“It made my heart sing to see him do the perp walk,” Olenn said. “At the civil hearing, he was cocky and arrogant, but [yesterday] he was a changed man. His hands were trembling.”

US prosecutors said the island authorities have indicated there is “overwhelming circumstantial evidence proving that Swain murdered his wife.”

That evidence, prosecutors said in a complaint seeking Swain’s arrest, includes “unusual behavior by Swain following the death of Tyre, evidence concerning Swain’s financial motivation for murdering his wife, medical expert testimony ruling out all known causes of accidental or natural death while scuba-diving, and expert testimony concerning the condition of the scuba equipment used by Tyre.”

Olenn has said Swain received insurance and other death benefits worth $750,000 and “squandered” the money on exotic foreign trips and lavish meals in exclusive restaurants.

Terrence Williams, director of public prosecutions in the British Virgin Islands, had no comment.

Swain is a former member of the Jamestown Town Council. He has said in previous interviews that his former in-laws cannot accept that Tyre’s death was an accident and that he had offered to return to Tortola to answer investigators’ questions.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report

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