Dr Joseph Michael Swango, born in the U.S. in 1954, is a serial killer who, as a trusted doctor, had easy access to his victims. Authorities believe he murdered up to 60 people and poisoned countless others, including co-workers, friends and his wife.
According to the ThoughtCo website, from the age of three, Swango showed an unusual interest in violent deaths. As he got older, he became fixated on stories about the Holocaust, particularly those that contained pictures of the death camps. His interest was so strong that he began to keep a scrapbook of pictures and articles about fatal car wrecks and macabre crimes. His mother would also contribute to his scrapbooks when she came across such articles.
Swango became a trained sharpshooter for the U.S. Marines, but decided against a military career. In his senior year at Quincy College in the late 1979s, he elected to do his chemistry thesis on the bizarre poisoning death of Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov. Swango developed an obsessive interest in poisons that could be used as silent killers.
As a doctor at Rhodes Hall medical facility in Ohio, there were numerous occasions when patients were found near death or dead just minutes after Swango left the rooms. There was also an incident when several patients became violently ill after Swango offered to go get fried chicken for everyone. Swango also ate the chicken but did not get sick.
He began making inappropriate and strange comments related to death and people dying. He would become visibly excited over CNN news stories about mass killings and horrific auto accidents.
Even to hardened paramedics that had seen it all, Swango’s lust for blood and guts was downright creepy.
In September the first noticeable incident that Swango was dangerous occurred when he brought doughnuts for his co-workers. Everyone who ate one ended up becoming violently ill and several had to go to the hospital.
There were other incidents where co-workers became ill after eating or drinking something Swango had prepared. Suspecting that he was purposely making them ill, some of the workers decided to get tested. When they tested positive for poison, a police investigation was launched.
The police obtained a search warrant for his home and inside they found hundreds of drugs and poisons, several containers of ant poison, books on poison, and syringes. Swango was arrested and charged with battery.
With the FBI on his trail for various charges, Swango was smart enough to realize that his best move was to get out of the U.S.. He sent his application and altered references to an agency called Options, which helps American doctors find work in foreign countries.
In November 1994, the Lutheran church hired Swango after obtaining his application and falsified recommendations through Options. He was to go to Zvishavane, a remote area of Zimbabwe.
The hospital director, Dr. Christopher Zishiri, was thrilled to have an American doctor join the hospital, but once Swango began working it became apparent that he was untrained to perform some very basic procedures. It was decided that he would go to one of the sister hospitals and train for five months, and then return to Mnene Hospital in Zvishavane to work.
For the first five months in Zimbabwe, Swango received glowing reviews and almost everyone on the medical staff admired his dedication and hard work. But when he returned to Mnene after his training, his attitude was different. He no longer seemed interested in the hospital or his patients. People whispered about how lazy and rude he had become. Once again, patients began mysteriously dying.
Some of the patients that survived had a clear recall about Swango coming to their rooms and giving them injections right before they went into convulsions. A handful of nurses also admitted to seeing Swango near patients just minutes before they died.
Dr. Zishiri contacted the police and a search of Swango’s cottage turned up hundreds of various drugs and poisons.
On October 13, 1995, he was handed a termination letter and he had a week to vacate hospital property.
For the next year and a half, Swango continued his stay in Zimbabwe while his lawyer worked to have his position at the Mnene hospital restored and his license to practice medicine in Zimbabwe reinstated. He eventually fled Zimbabwe to Zambia when evidence of his guilt began to surface.
On June 27, 1997, Swango entered the U.S. at the Chicago-O’Hare airport while in route to the Royal Hospital in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. He was promptly arrested by immigration officials and held in prison in New York to await his trial.
A year later Swango pleaded guilty to defrauding the government and he was sentenced to three years and six months in prison. In July 2000, just days before he was to be released, federal authorities charged Swango with one count of assault, three counts of murder, three counts of making false statements, one count of defrauding by use of wires, and mail fraud.
In the meantime, Zimbabwe was fighting to have Swango extradited to Africa to face five counts of murder.
Swango pleaded not guilty, but fearing that he could be facing the death penalty on being handed over to the Zimbabwe authorities, he decided to change his plea to guilty of murder and fraud.
Michael Swango received three consecutive life sentences. He is currently serving his time at the super maximum U.S. Penitentiary, Florence ADX. 🔺