He says he regrets the 1988 standoff that led to cop’s death; his release decision awaits vote
Addam Swapp, who blew up an LDS stake center in 1988 and engaged in a standoff with authorities that ended in the shooting death of a Utah Corrections officer, said Friday that he was sorry for his actions and now wanted to pursue peace.
“I would never touch another gun again, even if I wasn’t a felon,” Swapp told a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Friday in Arizona. “I want to pursue peace.”
During the interview with board member Clark Harms, Swapp, 45, declared he was a totally different person from the man he was on Jan. 16, 1988, when he detonated 87 sticks of dynamite in the Kamas LDS Stake Center because he thought he could bring down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and resurrect John Singer, Swapp’s father-in-law – a fundamentalist Mormon who was shot and killed by police officers nine years earlier.
The taped interview, released to the public on Monday, also has Swapp repeating how he has asked for God’s forgiveness and now wants to follow the example of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges he still subscribes to fundamentalist views.
“Yes I do,” he says. “But I will say I’m first and foremost a Christian.”
After Swapp blew up the church nearly two decades ago, he barricaded himself in a home in Marion for 13 days with a dozen family members, including mother-in-law Vickie Singer, brother Jonathan Swapp and brother-in-law John Timothy Singer.
The standoff ended with a gun battle on Jan. 28 when Utah Corrections Lt. Fred House and an FBI team tried to capture Swapp and his brother as they left the house. John Timothy Singer shot and killed House.
Today, Swapp said he can’t believe what happened that day.
“I look at it and I think, how did this, how did this happen?” he said.
Swapp later explained his motivations to commit the crimes. He said he believed his father-in-law was unjustly killed and not afforded justice from the court system.
Swapp said everything could have been avoided if the person who killed John Singer had apologized.
“If they would have just said they were sorry, it would have been like throwing cold water on a fire,” he said.
Swapp said his family also felt threatened by neighbors and the sheriff’s office, which he complained had made physical and verbal threats toward them prior to the siege.
“I think the thing that really sent it all overboard was when we got back John [Singer]’s blood-stained clothes from the sheriff’s department and pictures of his autopsy,” Swapp said. “His wife was inconsolable.”
But Swapp assured Harms that he would never repeat his mistakes.
“For one thing, we’re a heck of a lot older and a lot wiser and I got 20 years of prison under my belt.
“It would never happen again,” he continued. “Not with me. And in fact, if it did happen again, some similar circumstance, I would want to try to help that person that was in that situation to try to realize what they’re doing is wrong. I’ve often thought, what could someone have told me? What could you have told me, while I was under those conditions, that would have stopped me?”
Swapp left those questions unanswered.
Since the standoff, Swapp said his ties to the Singers, his children and his ex-wives have been strained or severed entirely. What happened in 1988 could never be repeated, he tried to assure Harms.
“Everybody will never get together again,” he said. “I will never see the Singer property. I have no desire to go back there. . . . My brother, Jonathan, I haven’t talked to him for probably five or six years. But [John Timothy Singer] and I are real close.”
Swapp went on to apologize several times during the interview to the House family by saying he would like to “make it up to them, restitution or paying my tithing.”
He said twice that his apology was from the heart.
Ann House, Fred’s widow, said by phone Monday that she is not convinced Swapp has changed his ways or taken full accountability for the suffering he has caused her family.
“I’ve heard, ‘I’m sorry,’ and I’ve heard a lot of justification,” Swapp said. “I accept it for what it is.”
Swapp has already served a 15-year federal sentence for the church bombing. He has served two years of a 15-year state manslaughter sentence for House’s death. He is incarcerated in an Arizona prison to avoid conflict in Utah.
Ann House said Swapp should serve his full sentence behind bars.
“No. Two years for the death of a public officer is not long enough,” she said.
House did not attend Friday’s hearing, but her brother-in-law, Charles Burnett, did.
He described to Harms how Swapp’s decisions 19 years ago left Fred’s three children fatherless and caused Ann to suffer emotional, physical and economic consequences that will last the rest of her life. Though, he added, the family holds no malice toward Swapp.
“It really is impossible to say what would have been had Mr. Swapp not chosen the path he did,” Burnett said. “But we can say with certainty that the results of the path he chose have been pain, heartache, financial drain and the loss of a good man.”
As for Swapp’s promise to pay restitution to the Houses, Ann said the best thing he can do is to make sure whatever ideas caused his actions should never be passed to his children or grandchildren.
“Certainly he can never go back and undue all the harm that will last for generations [in our family],” she said. “The best he can do is let his old beliefs go and become a productive member of society.”
A decision on a release date for Swapp won’t be made until the five members of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole review the entire case and a majority vote is taken. That could take at least four to six weeks, Harms said.
Sidebar: Addam Swapp case history
On Jan. 16, 1988, Addam Swapp blew up the Kamas LDS Stake Center because he thought he could bring down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and resurrect John Singer, Swapp’s father-in-law – a fundamentalist Mormon who was shot and killed by police officers nine years earlier. He then barricaded himself in a home in Marion for 13 days with a dozen family members.
The standoff ended with a gun battle on Jan. 28, 1988. Utah Corrections Lt. Fred House died in the shootout. Swapp has already served a 15-year federal sentence for his role in the church bombing. He has served two years of a 15-year state manslaughter sentence for House’s death.