Woman sentenced for providing drugs to prison inmate who died

She pleads guilty to felony controlled substances homicide

PORT ANGELES — An Olalla woman arrested in connection with the Aug. 13 death of a prisoner at Clallam Bay Corrections Center has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison after accepting a plea agreement.

Lauren N. Smith, 40, of Olalla was arrested Aug. 24 for investigation of controlled substances homicide, delivery of a controlled substance and second-degree introducing contraband, according to the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force.

Smith pleaded guilty to one count of controlled substance homicide, a Class B felony, and the other two counts were dismissed on Thursday in Clallam County Superior Court.

According to state law, controlled substance homicide is when a person “unlawfully delivers a controlled substance, which is used by the person to whom it was delivered and results in the death of the user.”

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said in court that Smith had interfered with the administration of justice in the most serious way possible.

Smith traveled to the Clallam Bay Corrections Center on Aug. 13 with the intention of driving drugs into the prison, Devlin said.

“Drugs in the prison system are a big issue and this is exactly why. After swallowing what (Smith) gave him, (32-year-old Yakima resident Kody L. Swearngin) died.

“He can’t be here to talk and his next of kin didn’t want to talk. It’s just too hard. This just shows the serious nature of drugs and controlled substances.

“While this is a loss-of-life case, she is cooperating with the state. So we are recommending dismissal of counts two and three, 51 months in prison, community custody for 12 months, standard conditions of release. The father didn’t want to be present to say anything.”

Defense attorney Alex Stranger said Smith met with Kody Swearngin and he requested she bring controlled substances into the prison.

Swearngin arranged to have people teach Smith how to do it and included some cajoling, including telling her, “Don’t chicken out on me,” Stranger said.

“There was no gang involved, but if she hadn’t done it, there could have been repercussions. So, she did it. So she did. Obviously it was wrong, but it’s not something she would have done without his request and cajoling,” Stranger said.

“He knew what he was getting into. He was very much driving the bus on making this happen, not her. Not that that excuses her behavior, but under the circumstances, this was a very significant event for her. I have no doubt she ever will do anything like this again.

Then Stranger read a statement written by Smith.

“I apologize to Kody. Aug. 13 is a day I will never forget for rest of my life. If I had known death was going to be a result, I never would have done it. I didn’t like it or agree to it, which is why I dragged my feet on it,” her statement said.

“Kody and I were trapped in the same puzzle, the puzzle of addiction. I have a good brain and a good heart. I’m not a bad person. I just made a bad decision that day. I’m sorry I didn’t try to change his mind. I’m sorry for being so weak. I promise to spend the rest of my life making things right for Kody’s family.”

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden said he’s never believed in blaming the victims of crimes.

“Whatever role he played, he suffered the ultimate price. I appreciate the approach to this case. The defendant appears to accept responsibility,” he said.

That’s not an indication of his absolute concern when drugs are brought into the corrections system, Basden said.

“It’s not just a danger to the inmates but the corrections officers and their families. This reflects your understanding of that. What I’m wondering is if drugs contributed, if you might be helped with a (Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative).

“I make that finding based upon her representation of that kind of co-dependency with the victim. Hopefully there are programs in place so when you leave that facility, you are better equipped to function in society,” he said.

Clallam Bay staff called in “advanced lift support/CPR in progress” at about 6 p.m. Aug. 13 for an inmate who was not breathing, according to an Aug. 15 email from Clallam County Sheriff Brian King.

The inmate, later identified as Swearngin, was declared deceased by the medical staff and a Clallam County deputy arrived about 7 p.m. that night to begin the death investigation, the OPNET release stated.

A deputy coroner with the Clallam County Coroner’s Office arrived and took evidence samples from Swearngin that later tested positive for methamphetamine, OPNET said.

Investigators from the state Department of Corrections Investigation and Intelligence Unit reviewed records and video surveillance that revealed Smith had visited Swearngin just hours prior to his death, the release stated.

Further review of video showed Smith provided Swearngin with a small package, which he swallowed, the release added.


Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.