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Parents' murder taught lessons that changed lives

November 21, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this story.

They failed to adequately warn his brother and sister-in-law about Larry's emotional problems, then placed a second youngster with similar problems in the home, he said.

Bob's family, like Kay's, has distanced itself from the children, partly to allow Annie to have a normal life with Jack and Eileen Smithmyer, the Queenstown friends who adopted her.

'They were abusive'

The Smithmyers and others who knew the Swartz family declined to be interviewed.

Caryl Sweet, whose six children are grown, taught Sunday school with Bob Swartz.

She remembers seeing him and Kay in action and not liking what she saw.

"They were abusive," she concluded. "I'm not saying they were bad. No matter how hard they tried, no matter what they did -- they tried -- no matter how good their intentions were, they were abusive."

She visited Larry regularly in prison and once offered to have him live with her after he was paroled. Now, she works with other people's children.

She teaches conflict resolution to inmates at jails and prisons, and has developed a program to teach women at Patuxent how to cope with life's ups and downs.

The Swartz case, she said "changed my whole life."

Children over career

Warren B. Duckett Jr., the former prosecutor who is now an Anne Arundel County Circuit judge, has a son about the same age as Larry -- a son he tearfully embraced the day of Larry's arrest.

The case made him understand what his wife had been telling him for so long, he said, that it was not his career that was so important, but raising his three children.

Judge Duckett said he could not bring himself to take the case to trial, partly because he feared an insanity defense would be successful and partly because he believed that neither finding Larry insane nor giving him two life sentences would serve justice.

"I think he is going to be an asset to the community. I think a lot of folks, including me, would like to be proud of him," the judge said.

Larry, who took college courses last semester, is working and plans to resume studies next year, people close to him said.

Through Mr. Baradel, Larry has said he would someday like to talk to Judge Duckett.

For those who have stayed close to Larry, such as Ms. Sweet and Mr. Baradel; for Ms. Walker, who has lived with the story for 10 years, and for film producer John Levoff, a relative newcomer to the story, the Swartz family saga is one that too many people will recognize.

They feel they were abused by their parents or have abused their children, he said, and there has been no reconciliation.

"We should be sensitive to our children, and listen to them," Mr. Levoff said.

"Part of the process of being a parent is listening. These parents didn't listen well. They paid, obviously, a hyperbolic price."

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