UPDATE 11/1/2023: Paul Morales has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Chandler Sweaney.
The jury started deliberating at 4:15 p.m. once the defense and prosecution rested their cases.
Prosecutors said Morales fatally shot Sweaney, an innocent bystander, during a drug deal gone wrong. Meanwhile, the defense argued that Morales’ DNA was not found at the scene. Morales chose not to testify in the case.
For Sweaney’s family and friends, this week has been the culmination of a long and difficult process. But they remember the good Sweaney did.
“He gave very much back to the community,” said Debbie Jollie, who worked with Sweaney in a teen program where he spent time volunteering. “He was always there to help and help do whatever needed to be done. So he was just a special kid.”
Shelley Larrick Sweaney’s mother spoke with Ozark’s First after the verdict was delivered. Larrick said today was an important part of the process on the road to moving forward and finding a road to peace.
“So there’s gratitude and relief for that,” Larrick said. “But then on the other side, it’s.
The reality hit you that your son is never coming back still. So this is just checking the box of justice.”
The jury found Paul Morales guilty on all three counts he was charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Larrick said she is grateful to the jury for their decision and said that Sweaney will not be forgotten.
“I just really don’t know that there’s ever healing from this,” Larrick said. “It is a learning how to move forward and using the grief and Chandler to shine through us.”
Morales sentencing hearing is scheduled for late January.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It was an emotional day in court for the family and friends of Chandler Sweaney, who was shot and killed in 2021. The trial was underway on Tuesday for one of the men accused in the deadly shooting.
The man on trial is Paul Morales. In February 2021, police said Sweaney was killed when Morales went to buy drugs from one of Sweaney’s tenants. The transaction ended with two men shot, and Sweaney dead.
A number of people testified on Tuesday, including Timothy Johnson and Rickey Rose, the two men who have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Police said the shooting happened after Morales and Johnson went to talk to Rose, one of Sweaney’s tenants. Johnson admitted in court he shot Rose and that Morales left the room. Police said Morales then went and shot Sweaney, who was lying on the couch in the living room.
“He’s just such a beautiful, radiant person,” Sweaney’s mom, Shelley Larrick said. “It’s hard, first of all, to imagine those people living in the same home. I know they were only there for a little bit, but it’s just a stark polar opposite of who [Sweaney] was.”
Larrick has fought for justice since the day of her son’s passing. Sweaney graduated from Kickapoo High School where he played in the band and sang in choir. Sweaney also started working at Jimm’s Steakhouse when he was 16, and was an employee until the day he died.
Larrick has set up a scholarship for current band and choir students at Kickapoo in her son’s name. She also testified on Tuesday.
“I did want to get on the stand today and represent my son and who he was,” Larrick said. “They only ask you very pointed questions, yes or no. But I still just wanted to represent him. I hope that his light shines through me today up there.”
On Wednesday, the prosecution is bringing forth two more witnesses before the defense presents its case. Larrick said she’s grateful she’s had support for every court hearing, sentencing and now the trial.
“[Sweaney] understood what giving back means and that’s what some of these people here today,” Larrick said. “There’s 30 maybe more in a courtroom, but I have hundreds if not thousands of people that you know wear bracelets, they wear ‘Do Better, Be Better’ t-shirts. They represent who Chandler was. We’ll have our courtroom army until we get closure on this justice.”
The trial will begin again on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 8:30 a.m.