Six-year sentence replaced with 180 days in jail in vehicular homicide case

Daniel Swecker was convicted in 2014 and has been appealing his case since then

Posted 2/23/18

A Monument man who in 2014 was convicted of the vehicular homicide death of a veteran and father was re-sentenced on Feb. 22 after he exhausted appeals of his original six-year sentence. Daniel …

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Six-year sentence replaced with 180 days in jail in vehicular homicide case

Daniel Swecker was convicted in 2014 and has been appealing his case since then

Posted

A Monument man who in 2014 was convicted of the vehicular homicide death of a veteran and father was re-sentenced on Feb. 22 after he exhausted appeals of his original six-year sentence.

Daniel Barrett Swecker, who turned 47 the day of his re-sentencing, will serve 180 days in jail and four years of probation for the death of 24-year-old Nelson Marvin Canada, whom he struck and killed while driving drunk on Interstate 25 in 2012. Canada served in the U.S. Army and had deployed to Afghanistan. He was father to an infant daughter at the time of his death.

Swecker was found guilty by a Douglas County jury in May 2014 of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. The Douglas County judge overseeing the case at the time, Vincent White, sentenced Swecker to six years in prison in July 2014.

Swecker appealed his sentence up to the U.S. Supreme Court, although every appeal was denied. In a rarely used statute, White allowed Swecker to remain free on bond until the years-long appellate process was over.

Douglas County Judge Shay Whitaker re-sentenced Swecker on Feb. 22 to 180 days in jail and four years of probation but also authorized Swecker as eligible for work-release. The 180-day sentence begins March 5. If Swecker violates his probation, his six-year sentence could be reinstated.

“I recognize this sentence may not be a popular sentence,” Whitaker said during the hearing.

When Swecker's original six-year sentence was placed on hold, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler was a vocal opponent of the decision.

"This is not justice," he said in 2014.

As she announced her decision Feb. 22, Brauchler leaned forward in his seat and sunk his head in his hands. Across the courtroom, friends and family of Swecker, including his wife and two children, wiped tears from their eyes. Swecker turned to his family and smiled.

"I would have liked to see him get the sentence that he earned after was convicted by a jury of his peers," Brauchler said.

At approximately 2 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2012, a witness called Castle Rock police to report a body lying in the interstate.

According to police, Canada, a passenger in a southbound SUV, had demanded the vehicle's driver pull over and allow him to drive because he believed the driver was intoxicated.

The driver stopped on the right shoulder of I-25 and as the two switched, Canada was struck by a Ford Excursion traveling 80 mph and flew 124 feet from the site of impact. He sustained multiple traumas to his body.

Swecker walked more than a mile from the scene, with his phone in his pocket, without dialing 911, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. He stopped at a gas station to call his wife and have her pick him up. His wife then drove him back to the scene of the crash more than 40 minutes later.

The incident was his third DUI, according to a news release from the district attorney's office.

Whitaker said in determining his new sentence, she weighed new information regarding his character.

“The court must consider the person who stands before it today,” Whitaker said.

In the six years since Canada was killed, Swecker lost his job but gained new employment, where he is now being considered for a partnership. He obtained his master of business administration degree and completed 41 weeks of therapy. He was also involved in an organization serving foster care children and has remained sober.

Whitaker said she could not say if those activities were the result of a more permanent “life change” or if Swecker was merely on his best behavior while appealing his sentence, but that he took advantage of the opportunity given by his appellate bond to better himself.

After the hearing closed, the courtroom became a celebratory gathering as Swecker hugged and kissed crying family members, at one point raising his arms to point upward, taking an audible sigh of relief.

Swecker's attorney, Sarah Schielke, called the original six-year sentence inappropriate.

“He's a veteran and had no criminal convictions on his record,” she said.

Schielke said the circumstances of the accident, where Canada's vehicle was stopped on the interstate, was “a hazard that would have been difficult for a sober person to avoid.”

“He's relieved,” Schielke said of the new sentence.

Outside the courtroom, a somber Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley and the Castle Rock police officer who responded to the accident, Mark Galvan, now a detective with the department, spoke with a visibly upset Brauchler.

“I respect the court and the process it went through. I don't think this was a hasty or easy decision for the court,” Brauchler said, before adding he didn't believe justice was delivered in the case and was worried it could set a precedent.

“I am completely frustrated with a system and a set of laws that can allow someone to run over and kill one of our veterans — someone who survived the Taliban, to be killed not far from where we stand right now. That person can flee the scene, picking themselves over the carnage they left behind, go to trial because they refuse to take responsibility for their conduct, be convicted by a jury of their peers and yet walk out of this court house.”

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