Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Woman With 63 Drunk in Public Arrests In 5 Years Dies In Jail; Police anxiously "awaiting the results of toxicological testing."

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 3:39 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO OF SUNNY SWANSON VIA WWW.BND.COM/NEWS/CRIME/STORY/972782.HTML
  • photo of Sunny Swanson via www.bnd.com/news/crime/story/972782.html
The story of Sunny Swanson is a sad, strange one and George Pawlaczyk of The Belleville News-Democrat does a damn fine job telling it.

If you missed the tale in today's BND, here's the Cliff's Notes version:

Swanson, 38, was homeless in St. Clair County. She liked to drink and squat in abandoned houses. So much so, in fact, that she'd been arrested 63 times since 2004 for those two offenses.

Last Friday, after her latest drinking and trespassing arrest, she passed out in the Belleville City Jail and died.

Shockingly, police do not suspect foul play and the county coroner says Swanson had "underlying medical conditions" including "a liver that was shriveled up like a California raisin."

(Ok, that last part is made up)

There's also Swanson's mysterious boyfriend known as "The Shadow," who liked to give her black eyes before police took her mugshot photos.

(That part is not made up)

From the BND's story:
Of a dozen police mugshots of Swanson, at least four showed her with a black eye.

"I said to her, 'I wouldn't know you if you didn't show up with a black eye,'" Lannert said about his friend.

"She was a good-hearted person, but when she was drunk she was a handful. I don't think she could help it." Patty Prindable, who also was Swanson's friend, said, "She would give you the shirt off her back."

Prindable said the red shirt she was wearing had, in fact, come from Swanson, as had a plain silver ring on her finger.

Lannert said he had visited Swanson's campsites in the woods and had often worried about "The Shadow," whom he described as a male drinking companion. He said The Shadow "followed her all over and would sometimes beat her up."
The story notes that the St. Clair County Coroner's autopsy on Swanson was "inconclusive" and they are awaiting toxicology results before declaring an official cause of death. In the meantime, let's hope Belleville Police are all over this Shadow character's case because he clearly lacks the morals of his vigilante crimefighting namesake.

Swanson, on the other hand, sounds like a character straight out of a Charles Bukowski novel:
With 63 arrests since 2004 in St. Clair County and at least 16 convictions, all for misdemeanors or violations of city ordinances related to public intoxication or trespassing, Swanson was well-known to police. She was picked up on yet another trespassing charge after police found her sleeping in an abandoned building on South First Street.

Stewart Lannert, 66, of Belleville, said Swanson showed up in his life nearly 10 years ago, and during that time he said he tried to help her, giving her odd jobs around his South 29th Street property like mowing the lawn and raking leaves.

"If she had a pack of cigarettes and a can of beer, she'd look up at the sky and say, 'Thank you God for such a beautiful day.' I found that kind of inspiring, in a way," Lannert said.
R.I.P. Sunny Swanson. Here's hoping there's beer and cigarettes in heaven.

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