Victim in 1982 murder case upset with state for lack of notification

Investigates

Nearly 40 years ago, the murder of a Rapid City man and his daughter captured the state’s attention.

Three people were charged in connection with the shooting; one remained a fugitive from the law for months.

That man, Edwin Swallow, later received two life sentences. On September 15, Swallow died in prison, following an illness at the age of 60. But his death offers no closure for the Rapid City woman whose father and sister were killed.

Wendy Reoh’s scrapbook doesn’t contain happy memories. Instead, there are newspaper clippings from the 1982 murders of her father Connie Wilson and 17-year-old sister Cindy.

Courtesy Rapid City Journal

“I don’t think a victim ever gets closure. You just learn to live with it,” Reoh said.

Part of what’s been so tough for her to live with, since the age of 16, is the reason behind the killings.

“I’m not just a drug dealer’s daughter. I knew that my dad wasn’t a good man. But he was still my dad. I didn’t know the magnitude of it,” Reoh said.

Reoh’s sister Cindy was an innocent bystander who lived with her father after their parents’ divorce.

“We were supposed to be able to grow old together. We were supposed to be able to tell each other about our first pregnancies; all those things that sisters get that sisters take for granted,” Reoh said.

On the night of April 8, 1982, gunfire broke on the 800 block of 4th Street in Rapid City during a drug deal.  When police arrived, Connie Wilson was barely alive on the front porch and Cindy was dead from a single gunshot wound just inside the front door. The gunshots came from inside the house.

“The state’s attorney told me that if my sister had not been there, they would have never investigated this murder because my dad was ‘just a drug dealer,'” Reoh said.

Investigators determined that two men were involved in the gunfight: Walter Weddell and Edwin Swallow. A woman was shot and wounded in her arm.

“Michelle Richards was one of three people charged in the shooting deaths of a Rapid City Man and his daughter,” KELOLAND News Reporter Kevin Jensen said in 1982.

Richards faced lesser charges. Reoh says in 2000, she showed up at her work one day.

“I called victim’s assistance right away and I just told them, ‘Keep her away from me.’ I had three young children at the time,” Reoh said.

Reoh wrote Swallow and Weddell a letter in prison in 1999. She told them how much she hurt every day. She asked why they killed her dad and sister and if they were sorry. Weddell was the only one who wrote back.

He said “drugs” were the reason why and that he was sorry. Swallow said he felt bad it happened and that Wendy seemed like a nice girl; he just couldn’t respond at this time.

Weddell was sentenced to 65 years.  When he was paroled in 2003, Reoh was notified.

She’d submitted this form in 1999 to be notified of any changes in Swallow’s status as a prisoner.

But when he died in prison last week, Reoh learned about it on the news, like everyone else.

“It just opened up the wound a little bit more and dumped the salt in a little big deeper. Even through he’s dead, it doesn’t stop my pain. It doesn’t make me stop missing my dad and sister anymore. Shame on the state for not giving me the right to have a phone call. They did call Swallow’s family.  So they got a call, but I didn’t get the same respect,” Reoh said.

In order to get notification, the State says it was up to Reoh to register online. The Department of Corrections says Reoh should have received a letter telling her to do so.

“They claim they sent me notification. But why would they have to send me notification? I’ve never told them to stop notifying me,” Reoh said.

The Attorney General’s office says the state won’t automatically put a victim, who previously asked to be notified, in the newer system. Reoh says that is not acceptable.

“I want this changed. And I want someone to look at this and say, ‘This was a victim who made this change.’ This was a victim who fought to say ‘enough,'” Reoh said.

The Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification program went into effect in 2013.

KELOLAND Investigates asked the Department of Corrections for the letter sent to Reoh, letting her know she needed to register for SAVIN to get notifications on Swallow.

The DOC says there isn’t a copy of the letter sent to the registered victims prior to SAVIN. If the letter was undeliverable, it went back to the DOC and into the inmate’s file. 

The DOC tells KELOLAND Investigates there is no return-to-sender letters in Swallow’s file.

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