FORT DODGE - Sheila Myers and Vicky Bowman-Hall were both wives, mothers and friends of others.
On Nov. 15, 2010, both of their lives were cut short when Michael Swanson, 18, of St. Louis Park, Minn., killed each one in cold blood. On Thursday he was sentenced to life in prison for both crimes.
On that evening in November, Swanson entered the Crossroads convenience store in Algona and shot Bowman-Hall in the face after stealing money and cigarettes.
-Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Hans Madsen
Micheal Swanson smiles as District Court Judge Thomas Bice describes his crime as a, 'Cold blooded murder,' during Swanson's sentencing hearing Thursday morning in Webster County District Court.
He then drove down U.S. Highway 169 to the Kum & Go convenience store in Humboldt. He entered the store with a .40 caliber Beretta handgun filled with hollow point bullets.
Swanson shot Myers, of Humboldt, point blank in the face and left the store with $31 and some cigarettes. He was later arrested in Webster City.
Swanson went to trial on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery for the death of Myers June 20, and on June 23 after an hour of deliberation, a Carroll County jury found him guilty on both charges. The trial was moved from Humboldt County because of pre-trial publicity.
On Thursday in Webster County, District Court Judge Thomas Bice sentenced Swanson to the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for first-degree murder and up to 25 years for first-degree robbery.
Prosecutor Becky Goettsch requested the sentences run consecutively, and Bice agreed.
"It's the principle of the matter," Goettsch said. "It's the least we can do for the family."
The Myers family was present in the courtroom, and broke down briefly when Goettsch read portions of their victim impact statements to the court during the sentencing.
"There's no one to talk to; no one to go on drives with," Goettsch read from Roger Myers' statement, Sheila's husband of 37 years. "Everywhere I go, I go alone. There's no one to go to bed with at night. There's no one to wake up to in the morning.
"Sheila was a loving and caring wife that always put herself second."
Before the sentencing was handed down, Goettsch reiterated that the state believes Swanson doesn't suffer from a mental illness.
"He may be sociopathic, but this is a label psychologists use," Goettsch said. "If there was anything wrong with him, he could've been fixed."
The defense led by Charles Kenville, of Fort Dodge, argued Swanson did in fact suffer from a mental illness, but Bice said he didn't buy it.
"The defense wants us to think you're insane," Bice said. "I don't buy that for a couple of reasons."Bice referenced testimony from the Carroll County trial in which Swanson told his friends they'd see him on the news, and the fact that he wore a black ski mask in the Humboldt Kum & Go.
"That act alone demonstrates to me you knew right from wrong and didn't want to get caught," Bice said. "You're dangerous, unpredictable, and there is no place for you in open law-abiding society. Prison for life is the only place for you."
Bice described Swanson's actions as "cold blooded murder" at which a broad smile spread across Swanson's face.
"I look at the facts of this case, they're senseless and sad," Bice said. "The hurt you brought the family of Sheila Myers is beyond description. It will take generations before those scars close.
"During the trial, on my left I was able to see the Myers family as they grieved and likewise, to my right, I saw the family of Michael Swanson, and they too grieved and hurt to the core. What you've done to this family, and to your own family, defies description."
Swanson declined to address the court when given the opportunity.
The family of Bowman-Hall, of Burt, were also given the opportunity to address Swanson during a change of plea hearing and sentencing Thursday afternoon in Kossuth County. Swanson was to go to trial July 27, but pleaded guilty to the crimes of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery instead.
Swanson told the court he walked into the Crossroads convenience store that night armed with a firearm and with premediation and deliberation, shot Bowman-Hall with the intent to kill her. Swanson's tone was stone cold and matter of fact as he read the short legal statement.
During the hearing he also told District Court Judge David Lester, he wasn't suffering from a mental illness or on any prescription medication.
Jillian Bowman, 23, one of Bowman-Hall's 11 children, read her victim impact statement for the court and broke down into tears of anguish and anger half way through.
"How could you do what you did to my mom and my family?" Bowman asked. "You did it, as you said later on, it made you feel powerful. How powerful could you be to shoot a defenseless woman? You shot my mom in the face. It was plain disresepectful and evil.
"I know in a fair fight my mom would've kicked your ass."
Bowman went on to say she hoped no one killed Swanson in jail because she wants him to suffer.
"Nothing anyone can do to you will be justice for what you did to my mom," Bowman said.
She also spoke of her mother as a woman "with a lot of love to give this world" who wore interesting clothes, loved red lipstick, her leather jacket, coffee and Chevys. Bowman said her mother also had a great smile, laugh and was very funny.
"When she was murdered the world lost something very important," Bowman said. "I still can't believe it. It still doesn't feel real.
"What you did was truly evil. The only mark you left in this world is a bad one. It's upsetting that you don't shed a tear, or say you're sorry, you just sit there."
After Bowman and other family members read victim impact statements, Lester approved a plea deal sentencing Swanson to life in prison without parole for the murder and up to 25 years for the robbery. The sentences will run concurrently - or simultaneously - to the Humboldt County sentence at Kossuth County Prosecutor Todd Holmes request.
Holmes said by serving the two sentences at the same time rather than one after the other, both punishments for the crimes will be served.
Swanson must also pay restitution to the Myers and Bowman-Hall family in the amount of $150,000 each.
He will be sent to the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Oakdale.
The families are left to pick up the pieces.
"It's been tough," said Roger Myers. "We're going to keep going and keep moving on."
"That's what she would've wanted," said Mandy Myers. "I don't think you ever move on from losing a mother like this."
Jillian Bowman echoed similar sentiments after Swanson was sentenced in Algona.
"I don't think there'll ever be closure," she said. "We'll try to heal."