Clayton Swanner

Clayton Swanner

Clayton Andrew “Andy” Swanner has entered an open plea of “guilty but mentally ill” to a charge of first degree murder.

In pleading guilty, Swanner admitted that on Nov. 7, 2019 he started a fire at his family's home in Crossville, shoved his mother, Cathy Brandenstein into the flames and held her in the fire “knowing that such act created a strong probability of death to her and thereby caused her death on Jan. 20, 2020.”

The night of the fire, Brandenstein, 61 was airlifted to the University of Louisville Burn Center in Louisville where she later succumbed to her injuries. A subsequent psychiatric examination revealed Swanner suffered from schizophrenia during commission of the crime.

In a plea agreement reached in the case last Wednesday, a number of lesser charges including arson were dismissed. The range of sentencing has been set at between 20-45 years.

“Swanner will have to serve 100 percent of whatever sentence imposed by the court meaning that he could be in the Illinois Department of Corrections until he is in his 80's depending on what the court decides at his sentencing hearing,” said State's Attorney Denton Aud. “The state agreed to dismiss the other counts in exchange for the open plea of guilty. The family of the victim has been included in the proceedings and supportive of today's resolution.”

Formal sentencing before Circuit Judge T. Scott Webb has been set for Jan. 6, 2021.

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Chronicle.