A timeline of the ‘Rising Daughter’ case

Harold and Thelma Swain are buried in the cemetery next to the church where they were murdered in 1985.

Credit: Tyson Horne

Combined ShapeCaption
Harold and Thelma Swain are buried in the cemetery next to the church where they were murdered in 1985.

Credit: Tyson Horne

Credit: Tyson Horne

The investigation into the double murder of Harold and Thelma Swain is a story spanning 35 years and counting. Here are some of the key events:

March 11, 1985: Harold and Thelma Swain are killed at Rising Daughter Baptist Church.

March 16, 1985: A huge crowd attends the funeral and burial for the couple at the church.

Late March 1985: Composite sketch of killer is released.

July 15, 1985: An inmate says Donnie Barrentine bragged about killing a black couple in a church.

March 8, 1986: The family of Erik Sparre's ex-wife comes forward with a tape of a man saying he killed the Swains. They say the man is Sparre.

Aug. 1, 1988: An anonymous tipster claims Dennis Perry was angry with Harold Swain.

Nov. 2, 1988: "Unsolved Mysteries" segment on case episode airs.

Summer 1992: Camden County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Butch Kennedy, the agency's longtime lead investigator on the case, leaves the sheriff's office.

July 1, 1998: Dale Bundy is hired by the sheriff's office to work the Swain case.

July 23, 1998: Bundy meets Jane Beaver, who tells him Perry revealed to her weeks before the murders that he planned to kill Harold Swain.

Jan. 13, 2000: Perry is indicted and arrested.

Feb. 14, 2003: Perry is convicted after a four-day trial and given two life sentences.

Spring 2018: The "Undisclosed" podcast begins investigating the case, along with the Georgia Innocence Project, which has been representing Perry for years.

June 10, 2019: Perry's attorneys file a petition arguing for his release, citing new evidence uncovered during production of "Undisclosed."

July 2019: AJC reporter Joshua Sharpe begins looking into the case.

Feb. 24, 2020: After learning of problems Sharpe found with Sparre's alibi, a Georgia Innocence Project investigator obtains hair samples from Sparre's mother for a DNA test to see if Sparre could be linked to hairs found in the hinge of a pair of glasses found near the bodies.

March 24, 2020: The lab results come back, linking Sparre to the hairs from the scene.

July 13, 2020: Hearing on Perry’s motion for a new trial.

July 17, 2020: Perry’s convictions are overturned.

July 23, 2020: Perry is granted a signature bond and released from prison.

Aug. 4, 2020: GBI agents search the property of Sparre.

Nov. 4, 2020: Prosecutor Jackie Johnson loses election in the Brunswick Judicial District. She faced criticism for pushing to keep Perry in prison despite evidence he was innocent.

Nov. 18, 2020: GBI exhumes body of Harold Swain to search for DNA the killer may have left on his person.

About the Author