April 25, 2012

Old Orchard Beach man murdered his friend, police say

Michael Swenson is charged in the stabbing of Roger White, whose body was found behind an Old Orchard Beach bar.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

An Old Orchard Beach man with a criminal history that dates back more than 20 years was arrested Tuesday and charged with murdering a friend last weekend.

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Michael Swenson, who is charged with fatally stabbing Roger White behind an Old Orchard Beach bar last weekend, makes his initial appearance in York County Superior Court on Wednesday, April 25, 2012.

Photo courtesy of WGME-TV

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Michael Swenson, 44, was taken into custody by state and Old Orchard Beach police without incident at his mother's home in Scarborough, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. He is charged with fatally stabbing Roger White, 49, of Old Orchard Beach.

Swenson was being held in the York County Jail without bail Tuesday night.

An autopsy by the state's chief medical examiner, Dr. Margaret Greenwald, revealed that White died of stab wounds to his neck and chest. Investigators did not release any other details regarding motive, weapons or witnesses, pending Swenson's initial appearance in York County Superior Court today or Thursday.

"The details of what happened are likely to come out in the affidavits that will be filed in conjunction with his court appearance," McCausland said.

Authorities said a resident found White's body Saturday morning on Old Orchard Street, behind The Whaler, a bar on Staples Street. The two streets run parallel in downtown Old Orchard Beach.

McCausland said White met Swenson at The Whaler on Friday night. "(Swenson) was a friend of Roger White," McCausland said in a written statement issued Tuesday.

White, who grew up in Old Orchard Beach, lived at the Crosswinds Motel and Cottages and worked in the construction industry. He was a skilled carpenter who also did roofing jobs.

"He was a carpenter by trade, but he could do anything," said Tim Presby, a business owner who knew both men.

Earlier this month, Presby's business partner, who operates a construction company, hired White to help Presby with a roofing job in the Augusta area. "Roger was an excellent worker with a great work ethic," Presby said.

He said both White and Swenson grew up in Old Orchard Beach and were friends.

According to Presby, Swenson also is a skilled carpenter, who earned money by working on construction jobs in the region.

McCausland said in a written statement that Swenson was living in a lean-to shelter along railroad tracks in Old Orchard Beach. He did not elaborate.

According to records from the Maine State Bureau of Identification, Swenson has a criminal record dating back to 1988.

In March 1988, he was found guilty of criminal mischief and misdemeanor assault. In 1990, he served 30 days in the York County Jail after being found guilty of assault.

Over the next several years, Swenson was convicted of burglary, several assaults, drunken driving, obstructing the reporting of a crime, forgery, violating conditions of his release and theft, records show.

Presby said he finds it hard to believe that Swenson could have killed one of his best friends.

Presby, who also grew up in Old Orchard Beach, got to know Swenson and his family because he became best friends with his older brother, Richard Swenson. Richard Swenson lost his sight in a car accident and Swenson's father died when he was young, Presby said.

He said he lost touch with Swenson over the past year or so.

"Overall, he is a good kid. He has just had a lot of bad luck in his life," Presby said. "I have a hard time believing that Michael killed Roger. I'm sure the truth will come out in the end."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com

Correction: This story was revised at 12:55 p.m., April 25, 2012, to reflect that Michael Swenson's brother, Richard, lost his sight in a car accident, according to Tim Presby.

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