Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Murder of Reina Swierski

Reina Swierski (left), her husband Gary Swierski (top right), and stepdaughter Eva (bottom right)
Reina Swierski (34) was brutally murdered by her husband Gary Swierski (51) on March 9th, 2005. The 34 year-old woman was reported missing by Ted Mattman, a man with whom Reina was having an affair. Reina is originally from the Ukraine, but moved to Sunnyvale, California as a mail-order bride for her 51 year-old husband Gary. Reina reportedly suffered physical abuse at the hands of Gary, and confided to her family members and to Ted about what she was going through. Her loved ones reportedly saw numerous bruises and marks on Reina throughout her relationship with Gary as well. When Ted was unable to get ahold of Reina on March 9th, he was immediately concerned for her safety, and told police about her husband's abusive tendencies.

Police went to the home that Gary and Reina shared, but found no sign of Reina. Later, Gary spoke to an officer and said that Reina had packed her belongings and left the house. He explained that he believed his wife was having an affair and he did not know where she went. However, police were not convinced that Reina had just run off. She had a job at a Baja Fresh restaurant in Sunnyvale, and her boss told police that she had not missed a single shift in her five years of working there--until her disappearance. Additionally, Reina's friends told police that it would be uncharacteristic of her to leave without telling anyone. Still, at that point, police did not have evidence that a crime had been committed.

Three years after Reina's disappearance, in 2008, hikers found a human skull in Castle Rock State Park near Boulder Creek, California. It took two years to identify the remains, but in 2010, dental records confirmed that the skull belonged to Reina Swierski. Her death was classified as a homicide. 

In February 2011, police got another break in the investigation when Gary Swierski's 21 year-old daughter, Eva Swierski, walked into a police station and said that she had a secret she could no longer live with. It was about her stepmother's death. 
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Eva explained that back in 2005, when she was only 16, she lived with Gary and Reina. On the day Reina was reported missing, Eva was out of the house for most of the day, until she received a phone call from her father frantically asking her to come home. Eva complied, and when she arrived home, she saw her stepmother Reina's lifeless body in a bag on the floor. Gary explained to his daughter that he strangled Reina to death after finding out she was having an affair. According to court documents, Gary then grabbed Eva "by the shoulders and threatened to kill her if she did not assist him in disposing of the body."

Eva further elaborated that she helped her father carry Reina's body to his vehicle and then accompanied him on a drive to the Santa Cruz mountains. Once there, Eva watched as Gary carried Reina's body up a mountain with a shovel. He later returned without the body. Gary then threatened his daughter once again; telling her that he would kill her if he ever told anyone about Reina's murder.

After holding in this horrific secret for six years, Eva finally worked up the courage to tell the truth about what happened to Reina. Shortly thereafter, Gary was arrested and charged with Reina's murder. He went to trial in 2012, where he tried to argue that he killed his wife in self-defense. Still, it only took the jury a day to convict him on the murder charges. Gary was sentenced to 25 years to life.
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