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Spirit Lake man pleads guilty to murder

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | March 23, 2022 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A man admitted to killing his longtime partner last year.

John D. Dalton, 55, of Spirit Lake, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of 56-year-old Tina Swor.

“I killed Tina Swor,” he said in court Monday. “I shot her.”

By pleading guilty to second-degree murder, Dalton acknowledged that he killed Swor deliberately but without premeditation.

The crime is punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life behind bars.

The charge stems from last August, when friends and family requested a welfare check after they didn’t hear from Swor for several days.

Spirit Lake police found her dead inside her home.

She was shot in the head at close range, prosecutors said. She reportedly died about two days before her body was discovered.

Police sought Dalton as a person of interest in the case. He was reportedly in a long-term relationship with Swor and hadn’t been seen since the night of her death.

Later that week, law enforcement received a report that Dalton had been spotted in St. Maries. A deputy with the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office located and detained him.

A search of Dalton’s hotel room reportedly yielded evidence related to Swor’s death.

After conducting interviews, Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies obtained a warrant for Dalton’s arrest.

He was charged with first-degree murder, a crime punishable by the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued for high bond, due to the “vicious nature” of the killing and Dalton’s criminal record, which includes a misdemeanor assault conviction out of Oregon in 1995.

Dalton was held on $1 million bond.

As part of a pretrial settlement offer, Dalton pleaded guilty this week to murder in the second degree.

In accordance with the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to request a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors have also agreed not to file a habitual offender enhancement.

Dalton was charged with domestic battery, a misdemeanor, in Kootenai County in early 2020.

He later pleaded guilty to an amended charge of disturbing the peace. A judge placed him on unsupervised probation for two years and ordered him to complete a domestic violence offender intervention plan.

Dalton completed the program in March 2021, according to court documents.

“I believe it did make me a better person,” he said in court last year, adding that he was applying the skills he’d learned in the program to his relationship with his girlfriend.

Five months later, he killed Swor.

Dalton reportedly filed a claim against Swor’s estate in February, seeking interest in a Spirit Lake property that county records indicate was jointly owned by Swor and Dalton.

The claim was denied based on Idaho’s “slayer statute,” which prohibits people from acquiring property or receiving any benefit as a result of killing another person.

Dalton will be sentenced in July before First District Judge Lansing Haynes.

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