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Fugitive apprehended in Cloquet had been on the run for two months

A fugitive arrested last Thursday in Cloquet was wanted on 50 felony criminal sex charges in Missouri.

James Michael Swett, 41, was arrested by Cloquet police, with the help of the Carlton County Sheriff’s Department, as he was walking in Cloquet’s Pinehurst Park early last Thursday morning with his wife and two young children.

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Swett waived extradition to Missouri and was being housed in the Carlton County Jail until Andrew County (Missouri) deputies arrived to take him back to Missouri.

Swett faces the following charges in Missouri:

  •  14 counts of statutory sodomy (anal sex) in the first degree (with a child under the age of 14)
  •  14 counts of child molestation
  •  14 counts of forcible sodomy
  •  3 counts of sex abuse
  •  5 counts of sodomy

Andrew County Sheriff Bryan Atkins said his office contacted the Cloquet Police Department last Wednesday regarding Swett, who had been wanted by Missouri law enforcement for two months.

Atkins said his officers learned Swett was in the area when his wife applied for a job in Carlton County. From the application, Cloquet police got the address where Swett and his wife were allegedly staying.

“The Cloquet police and the [Carlton County] sheriff’s department did a great job,” Atkins said in a phone interview Friday morning. “A lot of times when you try to do things with agencies out of state, you get a ‘yeah, we’ll check’ and not much more. Those guys were on it though, texting back and forth, getting information. I’ve been looking for him since June 12, and in a matter of 12 hours [he was located and taken into custody]. They did an excellent job.”

According to probable cause statements filed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Swett allegedly committed crimes against three different juveniles over the course of years at the same address in Savannah, Mo., where the children were visiting or living with their grandparents. At the time the sexual abuse allegedly occurred, one boy was between 6 and 8 years old, a girl was 11 or 12 years old and another boy was under the age of 14, although his age is not listed on the probable cause statement. According to Missouri court records, the alleged abuse took place in 2006, 1994, 1991 and 1989.

Swett was initially arrested and charged in 2013 with eight felony counts including child molestation, forcible sodomy and statutory sodomy, but was not in custody after posting bond and was awaiting trial.

That’s when things got complicated, Atkins said. The sheriff explained that the prosecutor’s office had to drop the original charges before they could file the additional charges.

“Once they dropped [the initial charges], … the bond and leg bracelet were no longer valid,” Atkins said, adding that Swett cut off his ankle bracelet. “We believe he left that evening or the next morning.”

“I was not a happy camper,” he added.

Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek said Cloquet detectives Derek Randall and Darrin Berg were instrumental in Swett’s apprehension, with Randall doing a lot of the research and Berg apprehending Swett after he’d met with the landlord of the property where Swett and his wife and children appeared to have been staying.

“Darrin had been talking to the landlord and they came walking by,” Stracek said. “He ended up taking a picture of them and sending it to the deputy in Missouri, who said, “Yep, that’s the guy.’”

Swett was taken into custody without incident shortly after 8 a.m. Aug. 21 and transported to the Carlton County Jail.

Atkins said Swett’s wife is wanted on some misdemeanor charges in Missouri, but she is not being extradited, unless the prosecutor decides to file aiding and abetting charges.

“It’s an important case,” Atkins said, adding that Swett grew up in Savannah and was not exactly “law enforcement friendly.” (Swett has a fairly extensive criminal record.) “For what he’s been accused of and charged with, it’s a pretty big deal.”

Atkins said Swett’s case (and disappearance) made state and some national news in the weeks after the new charges were filed and Swett disappeared.

“We had people calling from Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, even Tennessee, thinking they’d seen him,” he said. “I think he worked his way up the Interstate 35 corridor, from Missouri all the way to your city,” Atkins said. “We tried to investigate [all the calls], but nothing ever panned out until this one here [in Cloquet].”