Youell Lee Swinney (February 9, 1917, Arkadelphia, Arkansas – September 15, 1994, Dallas, Texas), was the only major suspect in the Phantom Killer case in Texarkana in 1946, although he was never officially charged with any of the murders. Swinney was a known criminal with a history of counterfeiting and auto-theft. He was linked to the murders by statements from his wife, Peggy, who refused to testify against him in court. Two of the lead investigators in the case, Max Tackett and Tillman Johnson, believed for the remainder of their lives that Swinney was guilty of the murders.
Swinney grew up in rural Cleveland County, Arkansas, the son of a Baptist minister. Swinney was convicted of auto-theft in 1947 and as a repeat offender, he received life in prison. However, he was released from prison in 1973 following a habeas corpus proceeding which found that a prior conviction in 1941 used for sentence enhancement purposes was void because Swinney had not been represented by counsel. Investigation into his involvement in the murders eventually faded away. The case remains unsolved, and physical evidence is nearly nonexistent today.
A 2014 book, The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders by Dr. James Presley claims that Swinney is the culprit of all five Phantom attacks.
- U.S. Census, January 1, 1920, State of Arkansas, County of Cleveland, enumeration district 25, p. 2-A, family 27.
- Ex parte Swinney, 499 S.W.2d 101, 102 (Tex.Cr.App. 1973).
- Ex parte Swinney, 499 S.W.2d 101 (Tex.Cr.App. 1973).
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