Fatal Butler County collision may have been deliberate

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

Around 11:15 Wednesday night, Hannah Swigart, a 36-year-old mother of three, clocked out of her job as a supervisor at a UPS facility in Zelienople.

She hopped into her Jeep. Home waited in nearby Butler — as did her husband and children.

Right around then, Michael Reid, 38, a man with a trail of restraining orders and terrorized former lovers, slid behind the wheel of his Dodge Neon. He was trying to get away.

Eight minutes earlier, his ex-girlfriend, Carrie Black, had called 911 to report that he had violated a protection-from-abuse order by breaking a window and throwing a rock at a truck in her driveway.

Ms. Swigart and Mr. Reid, two people who had never crossed paths in life, would collide in death Wednesday night. Investigators said Mr. Reid was speeding on Route 68 and crossed the center line near Buhl Road in Forward, slamming head-on into the Jeep and killing himself and Ms. Swigart around 11:20 p.m.

Investigators say they don’‍t know what prompted Mr. Reid to drive against traffic.

But a clue might reside in some of his last words, spoken to a Butler police officer.

While the officer was at Ms. Black’s house, Mr. Reid called her cell phone.

The officer answered and tried to talk to him about the rock-throwing incident. Mr. Reid was hostile, according to Butler police Chief John Hays. And his words before hanging up were ominous.

Mr. Reid said, “he was going to be dead by the morning and we could read about it in the paper,” according to the officer’‍s report.

The officer called Butler County’s 911 center. The plan was to alert other police departments to be on the lookout for Mr. Reid and his car. Then the officer called the area’‍s Pennsylvania State Police barracks to clue them in.

By then it was too late. Mr. Reid had already driven into oncoming traffic. He was driving fast. He hit Ms. Swigart’s Jeep Cherokee and lifted it up and over the Neon. It landed on the guard rail.

As the officer described the Neon to the state police, he was told about a terrible accident on Route 68 between Butler and Evans City.

As investigators shared information, they learned of Mr. Reid’‍s prophetic statement. That left police trying to determine if there was driver error or “maybe this was possibly something that was an intentional act by Reid,” Trooper Dan Kesten said.

It was not clear whether Mr. Reid was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The trooper said the Butler County coroner’s office would have to make that ruling, and no one there was talking Thursday.

Ms. Swigart’‍s father declined comment other than to confirm that his daughter had three children, worked for UPS and had attended Slippery Rock University for a time.

A man who answered the door at Ms. Swigart’‍s home also declined comment.

Mr. Reid had pending protection-from-abuse orders filed by three different women. The most recent order was sought by Ms. Black. In her petition, she claimed that Mr. Reid was threatening, had anger issues, took medication and drank alcohol, and said he tried to kill himself three times. She said she had him involuntarily committed to psychiatric care.

“The treats included punching my windshield, jumping out of my car and planting himself on railroad tracks [refusing to move],” according to court papers.

Another former girlfriend, Linda Homa, got a PFA last year. During their split, she said in court papers, he “punched the garage door, raised his hand at me and said I was pushing him to his limit.” She claimed that previously he had pushed her, punched holes in a wall and doors, and broke furniture.

Mr. Reid’s ex-wife, Carrie, with whom he had a 14-year-old daughter, also got a restraining order. She began applying for them in 2000, when she initiated their divorce. She obtained her most recent one in 2012, describing how “. . . he came through my front door. . . grabbed me by my hair, pulled me outta bed, put his hands around my throat, pushing me into walls, ripped my clothes, all the while still choking me and ripping my hair out.”

Despite the allegations of assaults, Mr. Reid appeared to have had a minimal criminal record. Court records show charges involving driving under the influence and vehicle code infractions.

Mr. Reid had primary custody of his daughter. His ex-wife has pleaded guilty to various crimes, including escape, receiving stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg. Liz Navratil contributed. First Published June 19, 2014 12:00 AM


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?