Very Scary People (2019–…): Season 2, Episode 12 - Dr. Death Part 2: You're Next - full transcript

Part two concludes as survivors, investigators and former colleagues detail Dr Michael Swango's murderous tirades against his helpless patients.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -

Gardner: There was a series of unexplained deaths

on wards where he worked.

Man: When he came out of this patient's room,

the patient was dead.

Fischer: He was telling us

that there was a doctor that went by his room

every single night, pushing a cart

and pointing at him, saying, "You're next."




Welcome to "Very Scary People."

I'm Donnie Wahlberg.

Michael Swango ... former Marine,

award-winning scholar, trusted physician.

On the surface, he seemed like a hero,

but there was nothing heroic about Dr. Swango.

He was, in fact, a dangerous killer,

obsessed with poison and death.

He reveled in human suffering.

Dr. Swango's murder spree spanned nearly two decades.

How did this healer-turned-serial killer

get away with this for so long?

Here's part two of "Dr. Death: You're Next."


Michael Swango, he just looks like the kind of guy

you would want to be your doctor.

I have tried my utmost to be the best person

and the best physician I can be, and that's all anyone can do.

He was a very polite, good-looking young man

who was very articulate, a former Marine,

and there was nothing that was not glowing about him.

Reporter: But people think Swango may

be using his brilliant mind

and medical skills to play with people's lives.

This was a person who should not be

licensed to practice medicine.

Lower: Michael Swango was a convicted felon.

He had poisoned his co-workers as an EMT in Quincy, Illinois.

I'm not thinking that that doughnut that I'm eating

is laced with poison.

Nobody thinks that the cup with soda

is gonna be injected with arsenic.

That's what makes him so dangerous.

He was trying to kill me.

You had this trail ... this trail of death

and illness under suspicious causes

that were attached to this doctor.

When he was in medical school,

his fellow students referred to him

as "Double-O Swango ... License to kill."

He had the highest death rate

of any of the interns down there.

Lower: Swango was dismissed

from the surgical residency program

at the Ohio State University hospitals.

Nurses are all afraid to be around him.

They sense something is wrong with this man.

Lower: According to reports,

Swango was suspected of killing at least one patient there.

Montanari: Cindy McGee was a 19-year-old gymnast.

She was in a trauma unit.

But we could see she was getting better.

Sackman: She's actually improving

until she gets a visit from Michael Swango.

Then she dies unexpectedly.

There may have been some warning signs,

but they really didn't add up those things at the time.

Some doctor was poisoning people.

This was a murderer.


Jordan: After serving two years of his five-year sentence

for poisoning his colleagues,

Dr. Michael Swango is released from Centralia Prison

in August of 1987.

After he got out, I didn't know whether he would be coming after

for revenge or not.

The news-media outlets were somewhat concerned,

because we knew we were portraying him,

you know, in a not-good light.

But I don't think the general public had any real concern

'cause he was not on anybody's radar.

Back then, you didn't have a 24-hour news cycle,

and this would've stayed a local story

and people outside that region would not know who he was.

And he used that to his advantage

because he still wanted to practice medicine,

and he still wanted to kill people.

And that's exactly what he did.


Lower: Michael Swango has been a first-year resident,

a student doctor, in Sioux Falls for the past five months.

He worked in all three hospitals here,

but it wasn't until this story aired on the "Justice Files,"

that people began worrying about Dr. Swango.

We got a tip from someone who worked at one of the hospitals.

This person recognized him on a show

she had watched the night before.

It was called "Justice Files."

It talked about how he had poisoned his co-workers,

and she was like, "What in the world is this guy

doing in our medical residency program and treating patients?

This guy could be dangerous."

Jordan: The story on the Discovery Channel series

"Justice Files" was actually a repeat.

It had originally aired on ABC's "20/20"

on February 13, 1986.

While Dr. Michael Swango was in prison

for poisoning his colleagues,

he sat down for an interview with John Stossel.

Stossel: We got permission from the prison in Illinois

to interview him, and he was very convincing.

I'm not guilty. I didn't do those things.

In that ABC News program, "20/20,"

Dr. Michael Swango had an answer for everything.

I would say, "Well, what about the ant poison?"

"I had an ant problem."

I don't know anything about ants.

All I know is I had an ant problem,

and I took care of it as best I could.

"What about all these other poisons?"

"Oh, if you looked in any suburban home,

you'd find lots of things

that the lawyers could spin as a poison."

Okay. Started to wonder.

You hear of the horrendous things that he's accused of

and that he's been found guilty of.

And, you know, you just think,

"Well, this has to be some kind of a monster,"

but that's not how he comes across.

Wipf: The crime did not fit the person in front of you.

When the report came on

and they put a picture up of Mike

and said that he was accused of poisoning his co-workers,

you could've knocked me over with a feather

because I couldn't believe it.

Jordan: The staff at all three medical centers

where Dr. Michael Swango worked were shocked,

but no one was more surprised than his fiancée,

a nurse named Kristin Kinney, also known as K.K.

Wipf: K.K. worked with us, and she also didn't believe it.

She just said, "Not the Mike I know."

I thought he was guilty going in,

and then during the interview, I had doubts.

And by the end of it, I was thinking,

"Maybe he didn't do it."



Lower: Dr. Michael Swango's future

in the internal medicine residency program

here in Sioux Falls is uncertain

after the Discovery Channel aired a program

on Swango's conviction for poisoning paramedics.

Now, I didn't think that you could spend time in jail

for poisoning people and come out and be a physician,

but, boy, I was wrong, because that's exactly what he did.

Lower: This is a common scene

at all three Sioux Falls hospitals,

employees reviewing files ...

files of patients who were treated by Dr. Michael Swango.

The hospitals did their own investigations.

And what they told me is that they looked at every case

that he had anything to do with.

And a review of all the patients did ultimately conclude

that he had had nothing to do

with anything that had happened here.

But the fear with Swango was high.

We didn't know at the time

if he was a danger to anybody but a patient.

Wipf: We had had a Christmas party.

The party was at one of our nurses' house,

and her husband was a detective on the police force.

And so he literally followed Mike everywhere he went

to make sure that he wasn't putting anything

in any of the food or whatever.

All of us were pretty okay with that.

Reporter #1: Dr. Michael Swango is suspended

from working in the Sioux Falls hospitals

because he lied about his past.

Governor George Mickelson wants Swango fired immediately.

He wants to know the whole story

of how Dr. Swango ended up here.

Lower: We talked to the admissions' director

from the University of South Dakota medical school,

and that was really kind of enlightening

because Swango did put down that he had a felony,

but he explained it away by saying,

"Well, it was a misunderstanding."

Jordan: Swango did admit that he was in prison.

He just didn't tell the truth about why he had been there.

He lied. He said he was in a bar fight.

McCarthy: He had the story about him

coming to some woman's aid in a bar/restaurant

when she was being harassed by some other people

and getting into a fist fight and he hurt people.

I ended up ultimately talking to the head of the department

at the University of South Dakota,

and he was kind of astonished to learn

that Michael Swango had been convicted

of administering a toxic substance.

Salem: I was not aware of the full facts

or the full circumstances surrounding his situation.

I think he just talked his way into these places.

And people would believe him because he was believable.

The whistle was blown, and they kicked him out.

I want to clearly acknowledge that we made a mistake

in admitting this person into our program.

He wanted to do an interview with me on camera

just to try to convince people that he was innocent.

Michael Swango says he should be allowed

to stay in the residency program because he did nothing wrong.

We discussed fully what the implications were

of coming into the program,

the possibility of completing three years

and then being licensed.

It was certainly something that I deserved

to have the chance to do.

When it got toward the end of this whole investigation,

he was talking to everybody about everything,

anything, you know, just to try to convince people

that he was, you know, innocent.

Jordan: Despite his claims of innocence,

Dr. Michael Swango was officially dismissed

from the medical-school program in South Dakota,

and in the spring of 1993 he and his fiancée,

Kristin Kinney, left town.

When they went into his house after he was gone,

it was full of poisons.

And after he left Sioux Falls,

supposedly the behavior really did not change.

It was like he skirted right under the law.



My father's name was Thomas Sammarco.

He was in the Army ... World War II.

My father was confined to a wheelchair

from an accident at work, but he went into the V.A.

for his checkups and stuff like that.

He was there for an examination.

He was fairly healthy, and then all of a sudden,

he got sick when he was there, and the nurse had told us

that he had a staph infection in the brain.

And they put him in ICU.

[Monitor beeping]

Every time we went up to visit him,

he was telling us that there was a doctor

that went by his room every single night,

pushing a cart and pointing at him,

saying, "You're next."

He was just a young, nice-looking doctor

who we now know is Michael Swango.


Michael Swango's story was out.

Reporter #2: The twisted odyssey of Dr. Swango begins in 1982

with mysterious deaths in medical school.

Yet he advances to prestigious Ohio State,

where he's linked to more deaths.

He moves on to Quincy, Illinois, where he is convicted and jailed

for poisoning co-workers with arsenic.

Yet in 1992, he's practicing medicine again in South Dakota.

A year later, he's on Long Island.

Jordan: And it followed him to New York,

where he was now practicing medicine.

How does this happen?

How does he keep getting into these places?

Sackman: I got a call from the chief of psychiatry

at the Northport V.A. Medical Center,

and she said, "You know, Bruce, you're not gonna believe this,

but there's actually a physician here,

working here at the V.A.,

and he's suspected of killing people."

It seemed impossible to me,

but you don't know until you check it out.

Maybe there's something there.

Maybe there's not.

Let's take a look, see what's going on.

Sackman: We found Michael Swango,

and let me tell you something, he was the most handsome,

charming person you'd ever want to meet.

You know, if I didn't know better,

I'd want to introduce him to my daughter.

We talked to him briefly.

Sackman: We said, "You know, doctor,

we heard that there's some story

in the news about you actually poisoning people.

Is that true?" And he says, "Oh, no, no, no.

This was all just a big misunderstanding."

And I said, "Well, thank you very much, Doc.

You know, I really appreciate that,

but could we just take a look around your room?"

And that's when his attitude completely changed.

And then he said, "No, you can't,

and this interview is over."

Just the way his eyes were ...

uncomfortably sneaky-looking, sinister.

And Tom and I are looking at each other.

Something's not right here.

The decision was made ... get him out of the hospital.

Get him out.

Sackman: And then the next thing you know,

a few days later, Michael Swango's gone.

Don't know where he is.

So the FBI typically doesn't work murder cases,

but in this instance,

because it involved a V.A. hospital,

the property belongs to the United States government,

then it automatically falls under FBI jurisdiction.

Jordan: The FBI tracked him to Atlanta, Georgia,

before the trail went cold.

Neer: And he was working for, in my understanding,

it was a water-treatment facility,

which was quite alarming.

By this time, we had learned

that he had an intense interest in poisoning,

that he had previously been arrested

for poisoning co-workers,

and that he was suspected of poisoning

and killing patients in several hospitals.

Anybody with that history

would look upon a water-treatment facility as,

in our estimation, a potential opportunity.

McCarthy: Then they went looking for him, and he was gone.

Neer: He disappeared.

And then we lost track of him.

McCarthy: At that point, he's a fugitive.

We consulted with the BAU, the behavioral science unit.

And they were of the opinion that this offender

would still be in the medical field somewhere.

He's going to be using some of those skills,

and he's going to be killing people.

So we started really doing a pretty robust investigation

of his time at the V.A. hospital

in Northport on Long Island.

By that time, we didn't have any evidence

that he actually had harmed anybody

at the Northport V.A. Medical Center.

But they did know he was guilty of something.

Gardner: They weren't sure about the suspicious deaths.

They were sure that he had lied about his background.

He lied about the fact that he had qualified as a physician.

He graduated from medical school,

but he hadn't become licensed in any way,

and he lied about that.

He still needed to complete his residency.

Gardner: He also lied about an assault conviction.

He said it was a fight in a bar.

Jordan: Swango then took it one step further,

creating falsified documents

that appeared to absolve him of all these charges.

I've got a document in my briefcase that he forged.

It was from the Illinois Department of Corrections,

and it said he was in there on aggravated battery,

but it said that he hit someone with his fist.

Didn't say anything about poisoning.

Cashman: He forged a letter

saying he had his sentence commuted

and his civil rights restored by the governor of Virginia,

which I thought was kind of interesting,

how the governor of Virginia could do that

since it was an Illinois case,

but he did a lot of things like that,

and they bought it all the time.

Jordan: Swango's lying wasn't just bad judgment.

If you lie on a federal job application,

it's actually a felony punishable by time in prison.

Gardner: There was a flat-out lie to a federal agent,

who in this case was the head doctor

at the hospital where he was interviewed.

If you lie on your application,

that's a false statement to the government.

Something we call 18 U.S.C. 1001,

a false statement charge.

It's, like, one of the mildest felonies we charge people with,

but that would be something we could at least capture him with,

and we knew he was much more dangerous than that.

The government had an abundance of concern

that he would continue to poison people,

continue to murder people.

The concern was, "Get him off the street

as quickly as possible with what we have."

Gardner: We indicted him for perjury, and we filed a warrant,

and the warrant gets filed not only in the United States

but internationally.

"If you see this guy, arrest him."

So that's the best we could do at that point.

Gagliano: But four more years would transpire

before there was a break in this case

that pointed them in the right direction

of where Michael Swango was.



Welcome back to "Very Scary People."

In 1993, Dr. Michael Swango, a prolific poisoner

and suspected serial killer, vanished.

Many believed he fled the country.

The FBI and Interpol launched an international manhunt,

but after more than four years, his trail had gone cold.

Then authorities got the break they needed

when Michael Swango tried

to sneak back into the United States.

I got a call from an FBI agent saying,

"Do you know a person by the name of Mike Swango?"

My heart sank because I thought, "Oh, God. What's going on?"

I said, "Yeah, that's my case."

He says, "Well, we have him here in Chicago."


Neer: Michael Swango was coming back into the United States.

He comes into Chicago, and you have to present your passport,

and the passport officials scan it.

And then all of a sudden, what popped up ...

There's a warrant for his arrest.

We had an arrest warrant for him ready for fraud,

not for murder, and we grabbed him on that.

And they detained him, and they took him back to New York.

Reporter #3: Today, Swango was arraigned

on a federal fraud charge

in connection with lies he allegedly made

to get hired as a resident in 1993.

I got all the evidence that he was traveling with

when he was arrested and all of his travel documents.

And he had a really interesting passport.

Neer: Now, what we learned by looking at his passport

was that he had been in Africa.

So it turned out that when he left Northport,

he eventually found his way to Zimbabwe.

So now we're gonna have to look at what happened in Zimbabwe.

Jordan: They put together a team of investigators,

and they hoped that Africa would be able to offer them

the clues that would help them build their case.

McCarthy: We had to get to Africa.

We thought if he got sloppy anywhere,

if he was willing to take a chance,

it would be over there.

Maybe he's done something in Africa that can help inform us

about what these murders were about here in the United States.



Dongozi: Zimbabwe is the most beautiful country in the world.

I'm not ashamed to say that.

It's a world of wonders.

Neer: It's a beautiful country.

It was my first time in Africa, when I traveled over there.

Valery: At that particular time,

Zimbabwe was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.

There was a shortage of doctors in Zimbabwe,

and there were many foreign doctors

who came to practice because of the shortage.

Neer: Michael had come

through the Evangelical Lutheran Church,

and there was a pathway for bringing foreign doctors over.

McCarthy: When he got to Africa,

people at the hospital asked him,

"With your background, why are you coming here?"

And he would tell them, "Well, I've been so blessed,

I think it's time I gave back,"

and people were dying to hear that and believe it.

Swango was assigned to the Mnene Mission Hospital.

The people he treated were mostly obstetric patients

who were delivering babies.

Neer: Within a short period of time,

the staff realized that he was deficient

in some of the most basic medical procedures,

certainly in obstetrics.

And so that was the first sign of potential trouble.

Gardner: We learned he also might be connected

to some suspicious deaths that occurred at the hospital

during the time that he worked there.

Jordan: The U.S. team included

forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden,

and he was looking for poison

in several of Swango's possible victims.

We had hired local grave diggers,

and we would transport the bodies back to Bulawayo,

where Dr. Michael Baden would do autopsies and take samples.

We also were able to actually talk to a live witness.

And there were two or three cases where there were people

who experienced some sort of intense pain

right after he injected him with something.

Gardner: There was this rush of adrenaline to the point where

they thought they were gonna have a heart attack and die,

and this elderly gentleman that I spoke to in Zimbabwe

said exactly that.

He said, "I thought I was gonna have a heart attack and die."

Other survivors shared terrifying tales.

And one of them was a pregnant woman.

Neer: And Swango injected something into her I.V. bag.

And then she felt this intense shooting of pain

through her body

and then this rigidity and she could barely move.

But she caught the attention of some staff.

And she said, "He put something in my I.V."

We believe it was probably succinylcholine.

Holstege: Succinylcholine ... it is a paralytic.

This causes every muscle in the body to stop working.

You can't move anything.

They're completely cognizant during that time period.

They know exactly what's going on.

And then they also realize they can't breathe.

A terrifying experience.

McCarthy: The nurse took the I.V. bag down,

threw it out, started another one,

and basically saved those two lives, the baby and the mom.

And at that point, there was an investigation,

and he was suspended from working in the hospital.

And he hired an attorney to fight his suspension

from the hospital.

Coltart: I then started representing him

and seeing these bizarre allegations leveled against him.

I then said to him,

"Well, I need to see your professional qualifications

to prove that you are a competent doctor,"

and that was never forthcoming.

And I kept asking him, and he gave a variety of excuses

to such an extent that,

by the time we got to the labor hearing,

I was starting to question the veracity of what he was saying.

Jordan: The FBI learned that, during the two years

that Dr. Michael Swango lived in Africa,

he not only worked for, but also volunteered at

several hospitals throughout Zimbabwe,

and the alleged misdeeds were not

just happening inside hospital walls.

Neer: Here's a guy who has been poisoning people

around the United States and now in Africa.

McCarthy: He showed himself to use arsenic in the Quincy case,

so right away, you know that's something

you're always gonna have to look for.

Neer: We found five girlfriends.

We asked them, "You know, when you were with him,

did you ever get sick?"

And one by one they all went, "Wait a minute. Oh, my God."

And they realized they had the same symptoms

as Brent Unmisig and all these others

that were poisoned with arsenic.

Jordan: At the end of their investigation,

Zimbabwe authorities had uncovered

enough evidence of poisoning

to charge Dr. Michael Swango with five counts of murder.

And at this time, the Africans had put out

to several countries a warning about him

so he couldn't get hired in a hospital.

McCarthy: The word was out.

He had a feeling his time in Africa was done.

Neer: When the border officials came to arrest him,

he literally climbed out a window and escaped.

And the next thing you know, he's on a plane.

This guy knew exactly when to leave.

He returned to the United States.

Neer: 'Cause he wasn't coming back in the United States

to live in the United States.

He was coming back in to get back out.

Turns out, he was on his way to Saudi Arabia.

Valery: He had gotten a job in Saudi Arabia.

And before he could go, he had to have a U.S. visa.

Neer: The requirement was that he could not get

a work visa in another country.

He had to get it in the country where he lived.

If he hadn't returned, I'm not sure what would've happened

in that point in time.

He would've killed more people in Saudi Arabia.

That's what would've happened. I just ...

I think as long as he was in a medical facility,

he was gonna kill people.



Jordan: After more than four years as a fugitive,

Dr. Michael Swango is finally captured and arrested

on a federal count for perjury.

Reporter #4: In 1998, Swango is convicted

of making false statements

in connection with his employment

at the Northport V.A. hospital.

There in New York, he wasn't on trial for the murders.

He pled guilty to the perjury charge.

Neer: Everyone's watched those old movies

about Al Capone as the mobster

who orchestrated the murders of hundreds of people.

And what did they get him on? Income-tax evasion.

It doesn't matter how you get him. You got to get him.

The important thing was to keep him incarcerated.

He was convicted, and he got three and a half years

in federal prison.

So the government had a ticking clock

to bring murder charges against him to put him away for life

and had to make the case in that period of time.

We had 36 months to try and prove one homicide

somewhere in the United States.

So that's what we set about to do.

Gardner: I do remember walking out of the courtroom

and turning to the agents and saying to them,

"Okay, let's not lose this guy again."

They know they've got a murderer on their hands.

They just got to be able to come up with the evidence.



When you're dealing with poison, it's very, very hard,

because we didn't know if it was there or not.

Dongozi: Michael Swango always described poisoning

as the perfect crime.

"No one will know what they're looking for."

It's like a needle in a haystack.

It was going to be a difficult case.

It was going to be a difficult case.

Reporter #5: In 1993, Dr. Michael Swango worked

at a veterans' hospital in New York state,

where he had access to every patient.

That made it very difficult for us

because we literally had to review every medical record

of every inpatient at the hospital

at that particular time.

So we assembled this team.

We had Dr. Michael Baden,

we had nurses that are trained in forensics,

and then we had a toxicologist.

His name was Fred Rieders.

And they pored through hundreds and hundreds

and hundreds of files

to determine if these patients expired,

not as a result of their unnatural disease processes,

but unexpectedly.

And these experts narrowed it down to about three patients

that they thought died unexpectedly.

It's not in the charts,

but either Swango was there or Swango was in the room

shortly before there was a code called

or he had dialogue with the family.

So Swango would be the last person to go in that room.

He would walk out, and sometimes later the person was dead.

[Monitor flatlines]

The three patients identified at the V.A. hospital

were Thomas Sammarco,

Aldo Serini, and George Siano.

Conroy: My stepdad,

he went to the Korean War when he was like 16.

He didn't speak too much about it.

He wasn't feeling well,

and so they took him to the V.A. hospital,

and they found out that he had lymphoma.

We went to visit him, and he was in terrible pain.

We had asked the nurse if there was anything

that they can give him for pain.

And she said, "Let me speak to the doctor."

And that's when I met Dr. Swango,

and he said that he would give him something for pain.

I never asked him what it was.


And then I got the phone call that he had passed.

We never even thought of having an autopsy.

The problem was, those are complex cases

that take a lot of time,

and so there's a lot of things that have to be proven.

And the time was ticking away.

Reporter #6: Dr. Michael Swango is currently serving time

in an Oregon federal penitentiary

for making false statements to get a job

at a Long Island hospital.

With good behavior, he'll be transferred to a halfway house.

Jordan: In order to build their case

before Swango was released from prison,

investigators needed actual proof

that the three veterans had been poisoned.

So they had to ask the families if they had permission

to exhume the bodies of their loved ones

and test the tissue for toxins.

I couldn't believe I was getting this phone call.

Tom said they have reason to believe

that my father's death was not natural causes.

He was poisoned.

It started to fall into place.

That's the doctor that he was talking about, Michael Swango.

And then we all felt very guilty

'cause we didn't believe my father.

And they believed that two drugs were involved here.

One drug is called epinephrine.

Holstege: Epinephrine is a stimulant.

A very large dose of epinephrine

can make your blood pressure go very high,

it can make your heart rate go very high,

it can cause you to have a hemorrhage in your brain,

and certainly you can get to a dose that can kill somebody.

Sackman: And the other drug is called succinylcholine.

Unmisig: It's a very quick-acting paralytic,

and it paralyzes you and you can't breathe.

And the big question is, are you gonna be able to find

these poisons in embalmed tissue?

Valery: And going down to the 11th hour,

there was not an answer.

Let's assume we missed the deadline and he was out?

I didn't want to miss that mark, because if I missed that mark,

I was not gonna find him again, not for a long time.

But toxicology is everything in this case.

Back in the '80s and early '90s,

you didn't have the forensic-analysis tools

that are at our avail today.

Lynch: Scientific testing has advanced to a point,

where scientists are able to make determinations

of the presence of various substances in the body,

specifically in tissue,

that they weren't able to back in 1993.

Valery: In the first victim, George Siano,

we found a drug called epinephrine.

In Thomas Sammarco,

we found a drug that is called succinylcholine.

That is why we decided to move forward

and charge him with the murders.

But would the charge come in time?

Michael Swango's prison sentence was coming to an end.

And he was within a week or two of being released.

Reporter #6: Swango was days away from freedom.

His current prison term set to expire on July 15th.

McCarthy: I can't let this guy go.

To let him go would be like allowing a hurricane

that you could stop hit a major east-coast city.

If he gets out, people are gonna die.


Lynch: Michael Swango was, at one point in time, a doctor.

But instead of using his medical license to become

a healer, Swango embarked upon a career as a killer.

Jordan: Just days before Dr. Michael Swango

was to be released from prison on the perjury charges,

prosecutors were able to indict him for murder.

The FBI went to share that news with him

and to let Michael Swango know that he had a decision to make.

Neer: We had the cases together for New York,

and so we went out to talk to him.

And we said, "We're just here to tell you something."

And he seemed surprised, and we said,

"What we're here to tell you is that you're smart.

You've gotten away with a lot of murders,

and we may have the murder cases in New York,

but we definitely have the murder cases in Africa."

Jordan: Dr. Michael Swango had already been indicted

for five murders in Zimbabwe, Africa.

And the punishment there ... death by hanging.

There's a treaty between Zimbabwe and the United States.

McCarthy: An extradition treaty, which had just been

put into effect by the U.S. government

and the government of Zimbabwe.

Neer: And Jim handed the ratification over to Swango.

McCarthy: His face changed. He went pale.

Neer: And we said, "You know what we'll do, Mike,

is we'll go over there.

Maybe you'll beat the charges, maybe you won't.

It gives us extra time to finesse our cases here."

But he said, "No, you know the only way

I'm coming back from Africa is in a body bag."

Well, that convinced him in pretty short order

that he should plead guilty and avoid a trial.

McCarthy: He thought he'd be hanged pretty quickly

once he reached Zimbabwe,

and he was looking to make a deal.

So he basically said that he would plead guilty

if we took Africa off the table, the death penalty off the table,

and he got to serve his time in a secure location.

Jordan: In the agreement,

Michael Swango would plead guilty

to the three murders at the V.A. hospital in New York

and also to the murder

of 19-year-old Cindy McGee in Ohio.

The first sentencing was out on Long Island,

and, of course, the families are there.

I remember when he was brought before the judge

and when we were all there and they sentenced him.

Swango gets up and he stands up at attention like an ex-Marine.

McCarthy: And he admits to the judge,

"This veteran, I gave him a substance

I knew would kill him and did so anyway."

Sackman: "I poisoned these people."

He ran through the whole thing.

What everybody thought for 20 years was now proven.

He is a serial killer.

He enjoyed sitting on Tom Sammarco's radiator,

watching him code.

I was furious at that.

I'm still furious when I think about him.

I really am.

He just didn't have any remorse in his face.

He took great joy in saying, "Oh, I have bad news for you,

but your father died."

That was part of his joy.

He destroyed us. He really did.

I just asked him to rot in Hell.


He did plead guilty to killing Cindy McGee.

Dr. Swango was tasked with taking a blood draw,

and he didn't do that.

He gave her a shot of potassium,

which then caused her death due to the cardiac arrest.

Harp: He said he shot a syringe in her chest

and killed her immediately.

It made you angry.

Why would he do something like that?

He didn't know Cindy.

Or was it just an objective for him to kill

as many people as he could?

Gruber: How many innocent people has he killed?

How many innocent people has he victimized?

The sad truth is that poisoning is an under-diagnosed crime,

and I think that there's probably a lot of people

that have been poisoned and died and nobody ever suspected it.

Jordan: Investigators believed that every person

around Michael Swango

could have been a potential target,

like in the case of Michael Swango's former fiancée,

Kristin Kinney, known as K.K.

Shortly after she and Swango left South Dakota,

they broke up, and she committed suicide.

I got a phone call from my charge nurse at the hospital,

and she said, "K.K. killed herself,"

and I just burst into tears.

Sackman: The family kept a lock of her hair,

and we had that lock tested.

It was loaded with arsenic.

So he'd been poisoning her for quite some time, too.

Cooper: At the very least, he seems to be a sick man.

At the very most, he's the epitome of evil.

Sackman: He was sentenced to life imprisonment

without the possibility of parole for the murders

that he pled guilty to.

McCarthy: And, if he ever gets out,

he still has to go back to Zimbabwe.


Unmisig: Where he's at, he's in with the worst of the worst.

So the FBI labels him

as being one of the most dangerous individuals.

I think that describes how dangerous Swango is to society.

He was brilliant, charming, and a diabolical killer.

I know that Michael has only been convicted of four murders.

He contends that there are hundreds.

He says...

Valery: It had nothing to do with veterans.

It had nothing to do with age.

It had nothing to do with illnesses.

He liked to kill.

[Monitor flatlines]


Michael Swango is serving four life sentences

with no chance of parole.

Authorities say they don't know how many people

Swango has murdered

but believe the body count could be as many as 60 worldwide.

Retired FBI agents Tom Neer and James McCarthy

regularly visit with him in prison in the hopes

he will reveal information about other victims.

HLN reached out to Swango for comment.

He did respond, but he would not answer questions

about any additional crimes for fear of further prosecution.

I'm Donnie Wahlberg.

Thanks for watching. Good night.