Man gets 30 years in murder case

A judge in Gilmer sentenced Jeffrey David Swanner to 30 years in prison for murder last week after the defendant pleaded guilty on the third anniversary of the crime, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.
Swanner, a 34-year-old Upshur Countian, was sentenced by 115th District Judge Dean Fowler for the April 3, 2021 ax murder of Kenneth (Ace) Wadel Burcalow, Byrd said.
The sentence for the crime, committed in Diana community, was a plea bargain and Gilmer attorney Matthew Patton represented Swanner, the district attorney added.
Burcalow, 60, of Diana, was slain “after a night of methamphetamine and alcohol use” by both men, the prosecutor wrote in a news release. “An argument began inside a small camper (owned by Burcalo) off of Swan Road” before Swanner hit the victim in the head with an ax at least once, Byrd said.
“The defendant and victim had been friends for many years, yet upon seeing ‘demons,’ and believing the victim was attacking him,” Swanner struck Burcalow, the prosecutor wrote.
“The defendant fled the scene, but was found the following day out in the woods,” Byrd added.
Based on a report from a psychiatrist who examined Swanner, the state and defense had agreed in 2021 he was mentally incompetent to stand trial, and he was committed to Vernon State Hospital until he regained competency, the prosecutor said.
The order committing him to the hospital was signed Aug. 17, 2021, and he returned to Upshur County Jail last Oct. 18, “but we didn’t become aware he was back until January of this year,” Byrd wrote Monday in a text concerning the case.
Burcalo was a former sergeant-at-arms of the Banditos, a motorycle gang, Byrd added.

– By Phillip Williams

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