CLAREMORE — An attorney for a man on trial for the shooting death and burning of his former stepfather told a jury the homicide was an act of self-defense, but prosecutors said the man sought a permanent solution to a longtime family feud.
Kevin Tyler Foster, 33, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree arson, desecration of a corpse and robbery with a dangerous weapon in the Nov. 15, 2018, death of 60-year-old Rick Swan, whose body was found in his RV in the 15400 block of East 495 Road east of Claremore.
Foster is additionally accused of vandalizing his mother’s and Swan’s headstone and installing a headstone at her burial site without Swan’s name.
Opening statements in Foster’s trial began Tuesday afternoon, with District Attorney Matt Ballard telling jurors, “It’s time for Kevin Foster to face the justice he tried to evade.”
The comment was a reference to what Ballard said were Google searches on an electronic device of Foster’s about countries that do not extradite people to the United States.
Ballard said game camera photos show that Foster was on Swan’s property the morning he died.
But defense attorney Jenny Proehl-Day alleged that Swan shot at Foster first, prompting Foster to fire back in self-defense. She acknowledged that Foster chose to burn Swan’s RV.
Ballard said authorities recovered a moving image from Foster’s phone that showed Swan’s body on fire. He claimed that Foster “had to get his trophy shot” and attempted to delete it once he realized he could be a suspect.
Claremore Police Department Detective John Singer, the only witness to testify Tuesday, told Assistant District Attorney Isaac Shields he saw no evidence to support a self-defense claim. In a tense cross-examination, Singer told Proehl-Day that Foster could have made statements to anyone investigating the homicide about Swan’s being an aggressor but opted not to do so.
The detective said he had never heard of self-defense being a possible defense in the case until shortly before the trial began.
Proehl-Day told Singer that he and Shields were attempting to shift the legal burden of proof from the prosecution onto her client, contrary to his presumption of innocence.
She also said Singer delayed arresting Swan on a charge of possession of child pornography for months largely because Foster was the person who reported the allegation in February 2018. Swan was arrested and charged in July 2018, and the case was dismissed after he died.
Singer told Shields he was reluctant to make a quick arrest because Foster’s explanation for how he found the items was “very suspicious.” He said he believed that Foster “attempted to manipulate me into making an arrest so he can benefit financially” and thought Foster’s eventual decision to file a civil case against Swan in March 2018 proved him right.
Singer said Swan accused Foster of stealing jewelry at the time Foster told police he found drugs and child pornography, and Singer said there was evidence to support that allegation. Swan, according to Proehl-Day, called Singer’s office phone shortly before he died to express frustration about Foster not being arrested for burglary in the February 2018 incident.
“Given your obvious bias toward the deceased, you’re not a person (Foster) would speak freely with,” Proehl-Day told Singer, who responded, “That would be a question for him.”
Swan and Foster had a court appearance in the Tulsa County civil case scheduled for 3 p.m. Nov. 15, 2018 — about four hours after Swan died. A witness reported seeing a red Mini Cooper in the area of Swan’s property around 10:40 a.m. Nov. 15, 2018, and first responders learned of the fire there around 11:10 a.m.
Ballard and Singer said authorities later found a red Mini Cooper at Foster’s home in Bixby.
Shields later asked Singer whether the child pornography he recovered from Swan’s computer was offensive to him. When Singer said it was, Shields asked him, “Why didn’t you drag Mr. Swan into the street, shoot him and set him on fire?”
The detective responded: “We are a nation of laws.”