SUNNYSIDE — There appears to be unreliable and reluctant accounts untold for family members and friends seeking answers from a Sunday afternoon, June 16, verbal confrontation between two opposing neighbors, John “Roger” Swigart and Mark Lessly Allen, which rapidly escalated into a physical clash on Jensen Quarry Road in Klickitat County. The encounter left Swigart with a fatal bullet into the right side of his head.
During an interview with Roger’s older brother, Terry Swigart and his wife, Terri, along with his sister, Brenda Farthing, family members voiced their plea of justice for their slain brother and to cooperatively speak on his behalf about challenging the self-defense claim issued by Allen after leaving the scene.
They disclosed their biggest frustration with the Klickitat County Sherriff’s Office KCSO investigation has been the unwillingness of Roger’s former girlfriend Janeece Smith and her friend Joleene Hart, eyewitnesses at the scene, to take part in timely, follow up interviews with Detective Sergeant Erik Anderson.
“It was back on July 1, that he (Anderson) requested that they (Smith and Hart) do a follow up interview and as far as I know, that has never happened,” the elder brother acknowledged.
“We’ve asked her to do it. She even wrote one up, she said,” Terri recalled. “She told us that she wrote up her statement. Her lawyer had her do that. And, we asked her if she would please just submit it to them (KCSO) but she won’t cooperate, I guess.”
In the subsequent days after Swigart’s deadly confrontation, mountain property owners and friends provided KCSO with detailed commentary about the combative and alarming situation which identified Allen’s behavior to be habitually threatening and dangerous on Jensen Quarry Road.
“Aside from the initial statements at the scene, both witnesses have declined to provide any further information,” Anderson said in a phone interview on Thursday, Oct. 3. “Limited witness statements and physical evidence don’t contradict Marc Allen’s account of events.”
The 25-year veteran indicated witnesses typically are in shock at the time of the incident and follow up questioning is generally conducted to gather additional details or new information which may reflect a change from what was observed after the traumatic event occurred.
When asked if it was common for eyewitnesses with a personal attachment to one another not to participate any further in the investigation, “. . . it’s not uncommon for witnesses not to take part, who don’t want to get involved,” Anderson noted.
“The KCSO case is completed,” the lead detective stated. All investigatory records have been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office. “. . . the door is open for new information, but I don’t anticipate any,” Anderson pointed out.
Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney David Quesnel confirmed both Smith and Hart had been asked to take part in separate follow up interviews by Sgt. Anderson and those requests were declined during a phone interview on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
He was questioned about the lack of eyewitness participation in the case. “. . . generally, it’s a bit unusual,” Quesnel remarked. He also mentioned the importance of receiving full cooperation immediately, and the passing of time makes the case more difficult to prosecute.
“In Washington State, we have a ‘no duty to retreat,’" Quesnel said. As stipulated in the Revised Code of Washington RCW Title 9A, Chapter 16.020, allows a person to use reasonable force to defend themselves when they are being attacked or have a reasonable belief they are about to be attacked. A person may not use more force than is necessary given the situation.
The law does not impose a duty to retreat. This means it is lawful for a person who is in a place where that person has a right to be and who has reasonable grounds for believing that they’re being attacked, to stand their ground and defend against such attack using lawful force.
“Mark Allen has provided a detailed and consistent story throughout the investigation,” Quesnel responded. The Prosecutor’s Office is waiting to incorporate results from Swigart’s primary autopsy report into a memorandum before making a final decision on the case.
The Swigart family said they have spoken to Smith on the phone about the poor audio quality of a recorded interview she had given to KCSO officials at the scene. They notified her the information was undistinguishable and couldn’t be heard as a result of the gusting wind.
“I told her that. I said with you refusing to give your side of it, the audio interview isn’t very good, and I can’t make out a lot of it. So, it doesn’t give the prosecutor much to go on,” Terry Swigart conveyed.
In those conversations, Smith had provided the family with a detailed account of what she witnessed, offering them hope that Roger’s voice would be heard. They recognized she had been in shock at the time of questioning.
“She gave us so much more information over the phone which is what she supposedly wrote down in her statement. And, we feel like her not giving that statement to authorities is helping Mark Allen and his self-defense case,” Terri expressed.
Family members thought Smith’s later story could help the Prosecutor’s Office and present an accurate version of what really happened on that tragic Father’s Day. They implored Smith to come forward. “. . . we believe Klickitat County officials are taking Allen’s word and there’s no voice for Roger,” Farthing affirmed.
Editor’s note: Janeece Smith was contacted for this story and did not respond with comment by press time. The original story was corrected to reflect Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney David Quesnel's comments.