Childhood & Early Life
Joseph Michael Swango was born on October 21, 1954 in Tacoma, Washington to Muriel and John Virgil Swango. As an officer in the U.S. Army, his father served in the Vietnam War and was listed in Who's Who in Government 1972-1973.
The family constantly relocated because of his father’s job, but finally settled in Quincy, Illinois in 1968. A few years later, his mother divorced his father, who had become alcoholic and suffered from depression upon his return from Vietnam.
Michael Swango attended Quincy Catholic Boys High School, where he was valedictorian of his 1972 class and played clarinet in the school band Quincy Notre Dame. He then joined Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois with a full music scholarship and maintained top grades for the first two years. However, after his girlfriend broke up with him, he became reclusive, left college and joined the Marine Corps.
While graduating from recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Michael Swango went through extensive physical training, which he continued even after returning to college. He saw no action overseas and received an honorable discharge in 1976.
He decided to pursue chemistry and biology at Quincy University, where he provided wrong information about himself, stating that he had earned a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart in the Marines. He later graduated summa cum laude from the University, and was awarded the American Chemical Society Award.
Following his graduation, he managed to get into Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, where he also served as an ambulance attendant. Despite an impressive academic record during the first two years, he started to spend more time with dying patients in the third year, many of whom suffered life-threatening emergencies, with at least five dying.
He was found to have faked checkups during his OB/GYN rotation one month before graduation, but was saved from being expelled by one vote. He was eventually allowed to graduate the following year after completing several assignments on different specialties.
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Michael Swango struggled to find residency due to poor evaluation of him in a letter from his dean at SIU, but managed to get a surgical internship at Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center in 1983. The nurses soon noticed that patients frequently died mysteriously when he worked as the floor intern in Rhodes Hall at OSU.
Following complaints, OSU performed a casual investigation on him and gave him a clean chit. However, his residency offer was cancelled in June 1984, which prompted him to take up the job of an emergency medical technician with the Adams County Ambulance Corps in Quincy a month later.
Within a short period of time, many of his paramedic co-workers realized that whenever he offered coffee or any other food to anyone, that person fell violently ill without any apparent reason. He was arrested by police in October that year and was convicted for poisoning co-workers on August 23, 1985, following which he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
Upon his release in 1989, he started working as a counselor at the state career development center in Newport News, Virginia, but was fired after being caught with one of his scrapbooks during work hours. He next got a job as a laboratory technician for ATICoal in Newport News, where many employees had to be treated for stomach pain during his tenure.
He fell in love with a nurse at Riverside Hospital, Kristin Kinney, who strangely began suffering from violent fits of migraines and committed suicide four months later with traces of arsenic in her body. In 1991, he resigned from ATICoal, legally changed his name to Daniel J. Adams, and attempted a residency at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Michael Swango finally got a job at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in July 1992 with forged legal documents which established that he served only six months in prison for misdemeanor. As his reputation at Stanford grew, he aspired to join the American Medical Association (AMA), which, via a thorough background check, came to know about his conviction in poisoning.
His story was featured in an episode of ‘Justice Files’ on the Discovery Channel, and he was subsequently fired from Stanford, but he managed to get out of AMA’s radar. He next found residency at the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Medicine, where he again started poisoning patients.
Meanwhile, the outcry caused by the mother of his dead girlfriend prompted Jordan Cohen, the dean at Stony Brook, to fire him and blacklist him to all US medical institutions. He fled to Atlanta and took up a job as a chemist, but an FBI warning led his employer to fire him.
Before the FBI could arrest him, he escaped to Zimbabwe and found a job at Mnene Lutheran Mission Hospital, but was once again fired following mysterious deaths of his patients. After his landlady became sick, forensic analysis of her hair confirmed toxic levels of arsenic, which prompted Zimbabwe CID to pass the information through Interpol to the FBI.
He subsequently fled to Zambia, and then to Namibia, and in 1997, sought a job at the Royal Hospital in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia with forged documents. In June 1997, he was finally arrested at Chicago-O'Hare International Airport while attempting to move to Saudi Arabia.
To escape persecution in Zimbabwe, he pleaded guilty of fraud and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in July 1998. During this time, the government dug up bodies of his victims and found evidence for at least four murders.
After being formally indicted on July 17, 2000, he pleaded not guilty; however, on September 6, he pleaded guilty to murder and fraud charges to avoid death penalty in New York and extradition to Zimbabwe. Judge Jacob Mishler sentenced him to three consecutive life terms, which he is serving at ADX Florence near Florence, Colorado.