2007-12-13 / News

Tyres relieved by David Swain's recent arrest

By Dotti Farrington

Lisa Tyre used an analogy about swimming to explain how she feels about the arrest of former Town Councilor David Swain on the charge that he murdered her daughter, Shelley Arden Tyre, in 1999 while scuba diving in Tortola.

"It felt like when you go swimming a long time and you haven't been breathing. Then you can fi- nally take a deep breath," the victim's mother said.

Swain, 51, is being held without bail as he waits federal court extradition proceedings to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), where he is accused of murdering his wife; Shelley Tyre, who was 46 years old at the time.

Attorney J. Renn Olenn of Warwick recently hosted a press conference for Richard and Lisa Tyre of Jamestown to talk about their feelings days after the arrest of Swain. A dozen media reporters and cameramen attended the session that lasted 40 minutes.

Shelley's father said the response of Jamestown residents to the news of the arrest "was like the whole island is hugging us" after more than eight years of grief and nearing despair about justice for their daughter, the oldest of their four children.

Swain and Shelley Tyre were married in 1993, about two years after meeting. It was the second marriage for each. He had two children with his first wife. She had no children.

Lisa Tyre said it took a long time for Swain to be arrested, but she's grateful it's happened. Her husband said he and Lisa are "walking on clouds" since learning that Swain was taken into custody.

"It's almost a miracle that this is happening," Mr. Tyre said. "You just feel that the Tortola (BVI) citizens and government are doing the right thing." The parents are relieved by the arrest. "It doesn't bring Shelley back, but it does feel awfully good that there is justice in the world," he said. She continued, "It's been a long time since our daughter died, and not much was happening. Now it is happening. Now we have a chance to tell the public about this horrid deed by this awful man. Knowing he was not in custody was pure torture."

Mrs. Tyre referred to Swain saying "death just happens" and she called it "most sociopathic." She referred to Martha Stout's 2005 book, "The Sociopath Next Door," and said it described Swain exactly. Mr. Tyre, meanwhile focused on Swain's repetitious comment, "I wasn't there" in response to questions about how the drowning happened.

Throughout the civil trial, the Tyres only wanted Swain to explain why he and Shelley did not follow diver-training procedures for a "buddy" system underwater. They said they did not suspect him of foul play at first but wanted to understand how their daughter died. They have not decided whether to attend the criminal trial. "Whatever the outcome, we learned what we had to find out about our daughter's death," they said.

Even before Shelley's death, Mrs. Tyre said, "there was something not right" about Swain. She referred to the way Swain treated his wife, "as an inferior, not in a sexist way. He had a non-verbal arrogance, a way of looking at a person."

She also remarked, "To lose a child is bad enough. When you lose one in mystery, when you doubt the explanation, it is hard to believe anything anyone tells you."

The Tyres said they did not get justice until Swain was arrested. "I am tremendously grateful to the people and the government (of Tortola),'' Mrs. Tyre said. "Our gratitude is literally overflowing.''

Through the years since they filed their civil suit, the Tyres said they were criticized by those believing Swain to be innocent, by those thinking the suit was about money, and by those viewing the court action is a media event. "It never was about money," the parents and their lawyer said several times.

In the days since Swain's arrest, the Tyres have gotten calls from active supporters and from others all saying the arrest reflects their courage, stamina and persistence.

Many were sharing still vibrant memories of Shelley, the animal lover and private school teacher and administrator, whose children were the students she taught, and whose joy was her Bernese Mountain dog, Torrey. She also had a warm relationship with her stepchildren, who since have stood by their father.

One school associate wrote that she was "a magnificent person. I applaud her parents for their relentless pursuit."

Shelley is the subject of memorials at both Massachusetts schools where she taught, and at the Jamestown library in a commissioned memorial mural by local artist Alexandra Foley Kent.

The Tyres emphasized their on-going love for their daughter and pride in the person she was. "The only mistake she ever made was marrying" Swain, her mother commented. Despite their dislike of him from the time they first met, Lisa Tyre said, she and her husband "tried to be polite to him and accepting of our daughter's choice."

They felt hard pressed to do so. They said Swain said he was "just waiting to outlast us." Even before Shelley's death, her parents recounted, Swain talked about inheriting their home on East Shore Road.

Tyres to move

The Tyres recently decided to sell their home in Jamestown to move to a retirement community in Canton, Mass. for practical considerations. According to the Tyres, island residents need to be able to drive, and she at 78 and he at 80 are experiencing some limiting affects of aging.

Ironically, they stayed in Jamestown during all the court episodes even though the time here meant great discomfort with the possibility of meeting Swain about town. "There were times that I would cross the street if I spotted him coming toward me," Mrs. Tyre reported. During the civil trial, she felt as if some she knew crossed streets to avoid her, because they did not approve of the suit or because they just did not know what to say. Her husband cited times when he and Swain were at same events associated with their individual town activities. "It was painful," Richard Tyre remarked.

The Tyres talked after the civil judgment about it being a bittersweet victory. "It won't bring her back," they said.

Both semi-retired college professors, the Tyres resumed parttime work as part of healing their grief. They lead seminars for Elderhostel, and book clubs and college discussion groups in Jamestown and Newport. They also continued volunteer work, he as a master gardener and she as a reader for recordings for the blind.

The arrest is dramatically releasing them from the hold grief had on them, and they look to being enveloped by good memories of their daughter, to being enmeshed in a scholarship program in her memory, and to establishing a new community and new chapter in their lives.

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