Cape St. Claire killer Larry Swartz dies at age 37
By ERIC HARTLEY, Staff Writer
A man whose brutal slaying of his adoptive parents nearly 21 years ago became
one of the county's most infamous murders, inspiring a book and a made-for-TV
movie, died Wednesday night of an apparent heart attack, his former attorney
Larry Swartz, released in 1993 after serving nine years in prison, had moved to
Florida, was married and had an 8-year-old child, said his longtime lawyer,
Ronald A. Baradel.
He was 37.
"It was like losing a son," Mr. Baradel said. "He and I had developed pretty
much of a fondness. We'd been out of contact for a couple of years, but
re-established contact a couple of weeks ago."
To protect the family's privacy, Mr. Baradel declined to say where in Florida
Mr. Swartz was living.
On the night of Jan. 16, 1984, 17-year-old Larry Schwarz fatally stabbed his
father Robert, a computer technician, in a downstairs clubroom. Kay Swartz, a
teacher at Broadneck High School, was stabbed and bludgeoned with a splitting
maul after being chased through the community. Her nude body was found next to
the family's swimming pool.
County police arrested Larry, the oldest of the Swartzes' three adopted
children, a week later after determining that his footprints were in the snow
near his mother's body and a bloody handprint was his.
The police investigation found that Mr. Swartz suffered from a personality
disorder and had suppressed his anger against his parents for years.
Robert and Kay Swartz were devout Catholics, and their household was described
as one of strict discipline.
Kay Swartz was unable to have children of her own, and her husband, an
anti-abortion activist who picketed Planned Parenthood offices, was eager to
adopt unwanted children.
Larry's sister Anne was at home during the murders, but his brother Michael had
drug and behavior problems that had landed him Crownsville Hospital Center.
In 1990, Michael Swartz helped to murder a man for a jar of quarters. He was
convicted of first-degree murder
and sentenced to life in prison.
Larry Swartz finally snapped one night after drinking in his bedroom. He first
stabbed his mother, then attacked his father, who tried to stop him.
After pleading guilty to second-degree murder, he was sentenced to 12 years in
prison. He was released Jan. 23, 1993.
The case inspired a book, "Sudden Fury: A True Story of Adoption and Murder" by
reporter Leslie Walker. It became a New York Times best-seller.
A 1993 television movie based on the murders, "A Family Torn Apart," starred
Neil Patrick Harris of "Doogie Howser, M.D." as Larry Swartz.
Mr. Swartz died without any warning, Mr. Baradel said. An autopsy was planned
and funeral arrangements weren't available.
Mr. Baradel said he was always confident that Mr. Swartz could have a normal
life if given the chance. He never thought the murders reflected Mr. Swartz's
"It's not the kind of person he was," Mr. Baradel said.
A good friend will come and bail you out of jail . . . but, a true friend will
be sitting next to you saying, "**** . . . that was fun!"