Two and a half years ago, Bridgett Wright of northern Kentucky was subjected to a campaign of terrorizing that culminated in the stabbing death of her cats.
Russell Swigart, a convicted domestic abuser and serial animal torturer, had been involved in a brief, on-and-off romantic relationship that ended in July of 2007. In October of 2008, Swigart sent Wright a number of disturbing text messages while she was unexpectedly out of town on business. The man claimed he knew where she lived and wanted her dead — and in his final text, Swigart told her he had killed her two cats by stabbing them to death.
Swigart was sentenced to 12 years in prison for breaking and entering into Wright’s home in 2008 and killing her cats, Mr. Frank and Piggy, with an 11-inch hunting knife.
It was the worst night of my life, Wright said. When he does get out of jail — I will live in fear of this man.
And now, after serving less than two and a half years of his sentence, Swigart is up for parole. Instead of succumbing to her fear, Wright began an online campaign to try to keep Swigart behind bars.
Wright launched a petition through the website Change.org in hopes of collecting 1,000 signatures from supporters demanding that Swigart be denied parole, which she planned to present to the parole board at a victim’s hearing on Feb. 14. She quickly surpassed that goal.
“What Bridgett Wright is doing here is remarkable,” said Ben Rattray, founder and CEO of Change.org. “Instead of living in fear, shes taken the issue into her own hands, reached out to people all over the country and gathered an incredible amount of support for holding Mr. Swigart accountable for his violent crimes. Change.org is about empowering individuals to fight for the change they want to see in the world, and its been an honor to support such an inspiring campaign.”
Former Kenton County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Sanders has written a letter to Kentucky’s parole board urging its members to order Swigart to serve out his entire sentence.
“It is imperative that Kentucky’s citizens feel free and safe to end bad relationships, to break up with a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend without fear of revenge or retribution,” Sanders wrote.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, people must be able to tell someone, ‘I just want to be friends,’ without placing themselves, their families, their pets, or other loved ones at risk of serious physical injury or death.”
Swigart has a long history of using violence against animals to intimidate and threaten women. He has multiple domestic violence convictions and exacts revenge on his victims by torturing and killing their animals, according to court records. Swigart “has left a trail of emotionally devastated and frightened women in his wake,” Sanders wrote.
Sanders provided the parole board with the findings of a 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals that found a person who has committed animal abuse is five times more likely to commit violence against people.
Despite the 2008 passage of Romeos Law, which made animal torture a felony offense, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Kentucky among the five worst states in the country for animal cruelty laws in 2010.
Swigart was the first person to be convicted in the state under Romeo’s Law.
Readers who wish to sign the petition to keep Swigart in prison for the full duration of his sentence can do so here.