WAVERLY, Ga. (AP) — Authorities have exhumed the body of a southeast Georgia man killed alongside his wife in a church shooting 35 years ago as part of a new investigation into the slayings.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ordered the exhumation of Harold Swain's body Wednesday in hopes of recovering DNA evidence, said Stacy Carson, special agent in charge of the GBI's Kingsland office.
Swain and his wife, Thelma, were killed inside Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Waverly, Georgia, in 1985. The man later convicted of their murders, Dennis Perry, was imprisoned for 20 years before a judge in July overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial.
Perry was freed on bond after DNA recovered from the crime scene matched an alternate suspect during reinvestigation of the case. Analysis of DNA from hairs found in the hinge of a pair of glasses discovered next to the victims’ bodies was linked to Erik Sparre, 57, of Brantley County.
Perry’s attorneys decided to do the DNA test after learning that reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed Sparre had given investigators an alibi that could not be true.
Sparre’s mother, Gladys Sparre, contributed the hair that provided the key DNA evidence that led to the overturning of Perry’s conviction. The 79-year-old woman was found dead in her Waynesville home two days after the judge ordered Perry to be freed. Authorities have not said how she died.
Charlie Swain, one of Harold Swain's brothers, said he's still pained by the slayings decades later.
“I want whoever did it," he told The Brunswick News. "I want whoever did it to pay for it.”