NWGA Scanner | July 24th, 2021
Whitfield County Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris on Friday sentenced Christopher Lamont Swanson, Jr., 35, formerly of 203 Jordan St., Tunnel Hill, to serve a total of 25 years in prison, the maximum allowed, for aggravated battery upon a person over the age of 65 and for possession of a knife during the commission of the crime. Swanson, represented by Summerville attorney Steve Miller, had entered a guilty plea to all charges without any negotiated plea agreement with the state. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Baxter who played a store surveillance video of the crime for Judge Morris prior to sentencing. Swanson and the victim, Richard Comer, 77, also of Tunnel Hill, were both standing in line at the Mapco gas station in Tunnel Hill. The two men did not know each other nor was there any prior dispute or even conversation between them prior to the attack. Swanson approached Comer from behind, grabbed him and pulled his head back then slashed his throat causing permanent injury to his throat and vocal cords. Comer defended himself from further attacks until Swanson fled the store. Comer, a local pastor and missionary was present for sentencing and described to the court how this one act of random violence had changed his life and caused him to live in fear while Swanson was out on bond. He stated further that he did not know how close he came to death until after surgery when he received more information during a follow up visit with the surgeon. Nevertheless, he told the judge that he prayed for God to change Swanson’s heart. A prior sentencing date had to be postponed in part because Comer was on a mission trip and unavailable.
The incident occurred on May 29, 2020 and Swanson was arrested the following month on June 17. Swanson denied any memory of the incident stating that he had been using Xanax and heroin at the time.
Swanson was granted a bond by Magistrate Court and released on June 23. Thereafter, it was determined that he had given a false address on his bond paper when he failed to appear for arraignment last November. Judge Morris issued a bench warrant for his failure to appear and he was rearrested in February of this year following an investigation by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Murray County and Catoosa County Sheriff’s Offices. Swanson was located in Tennessee and extradited back to Georgia. He has remained in custody without bond since that time. Swanson had no prior felony record, but had been previously arrested for DUI and driving with a suspended license. Baxter argued at sentencing that stranger-on-stranger violence of this type is extremely rare and warrants harsh punishment. While Swanson had a history of drug use he was found competent during a pre-trial psychological evaluation and admitted that he knew what he was doing. Judge Morris stated from the bench that she had an obligation to protect the community and that this was “the most shocking crime she’s seen in 20 years on the bench.”