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Thirty years later: Michael Swango's life in Quincy

Booking photo of Michael Swango after his arrest in October 1984


Brent Unmisig remembers the very first time he met Michael Swango in 1984.


He was 18 years old, and had just started work as a paramedic in Quincy.


â??I was coming into my shift - I started at 8 a.m. - and I walked into the paramedic quarters, and off to the left there was a gentleman they introduced me to as my new partner for the day. 'Meet Doctor Michael Swango,â??" Unmisig said.


Swangoâ??s former co-worker John Landis remembers a lot of Michaelâ??s endearing traits.


"He had a great mind, was very smart, was a good paramedic," Landis said.


"Big smile on his face, clean cut, friendly," Unmisig added.


Michael Swango always seemed to make a good first impression. Unmisig and John Landis were struck by his charisma.


Dan Cook saw something in Swango long before 1984, when he was one of Michael's teachers at Christian Brothers High School in Quincy, the school from which Swango graduated as valedictorian in 1972.


"One of the brightest students I ever had. Now, I don't know if he was the most intelligent, but he worked extremely hard at his studies," Cook said.


Swango excelled at Quincy College before graduating in 1979.


By September 1984, Swango worked as a paramedic in Quincy.


But the thing about Swango was, that first impression faded - quickly.


His former co-workers vividly recall Swangoâ??s serious quirks.


"He always kept scrapbooks. He would bring the scrapbooks to work, and in his spare time, he would go through several different newspapers, cut out stories, and paste them in his scrapbooks,â?? Landis said. â??Of course, the type of stories he was interested in were the ones that included some type of bizarre accident or death."


One morning, Brent Unmisig arrived for his shift.


He overheard the overnight paramedic crew talking.


"They were talking about a call they had in the middle of the night, and I think it was a one-vehicle accident,â?? Unmisig said. â??They arrive on scene only to see Swango on top of the roof of the car, in plain clothes ... he starts firing off pictures. He had pictures of the individuals in that car."


There was a lot about Swango you wouldn't call 'normal'.


Still, he was kind enough to bring in a box of donuts for his co-workers; nothing wrong with a kind gesture.


That is, until about 20 minutes after Unmisig took his first bite.


"(I) just kind of felt this turning sensation in my stomach, and it was just a matter of time before I started vomiting," he said.


And the next night, Unmisig and Swango were on duty for a high school football game.


"Here I am at the football game, and it's halftime and he offers to buy me a Coke," Unmisig recalled.


A small cup of Coke from Swango turned into three days of violent illness for Unmisig.


Landis remembers a similar incident.


"I would go down to the paramedic quarters, and there would always be fresh iced tea made in the refrigerator," he said.


Landis made the mistake of taking a few sips.


It was clear: these â??kind gesturesâ?? were tainted - and it was because of Swango.


According to Unmisig, the paramedics soon devised a plan where Swango would be sent out to a fake ambulance call, giving the rest of the crew a chance to search his personal bag.


"There was a full bottle of Terro Ant Killer and an empty bottle of Terro Ant Killer," Unmisig said.


The paramedics went to authorities.


On October 26, 1984, Swango was arrested on allegations of aggravated battery.


Swango posted bond and returned to the hospital â?? a move that stunned Unmisig and his co-workers.


"We're right outside the hospital entrance to the ER, he walks up to us, and I'm just absolutely stunned. I cannot believe he's here. So he looks at us, walks right on by us, goes through both double doors and proceeded to walk down a hallway,â?? Unmisig said. â??That led him down another hallway, and at that point in time, I don't know where he's going. But that hallway, to the end of that hallway leads to the exterior doors. He walks outside and we're standing there just trying to figure out, 'where's he at right now?'â??


â??And he was walking along the sidewalk, and now we actually see him â?¦ he was on that sidewalk, walked up to a telephone pole, then crossed his arms and kicked up his leg on the pole and just stared at us for the entire time," Unmisig finished.


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Don't miss Part 2 of 'Swango' Tuesday night on KHQA News at 10. Ross Green will take you through the trial of Michael Swango in Quincy.

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