Mokena man gets 53 years for fatal stabbing in Ottawa

Swift still faces murder-for-hire charges in Kendall County

A Mokena man pleaded guilty to killing an Ottawa woman and will serve 53 years in prison — with more time potentially coming on murder-for-hire charges pending in Kendall County.

Michael S. Swift, 30, appeared Thursday in La Salle County Circuit Court for a motions hearing ahead of trial for killing 21-year-old Grace Taylor in her apartment on Ottawa’s South Side. But instead of contesting the evidence to be admitted to trial, Swift entered a guilty plea to first-degree murder.

“I want to apologize to the family,” Swift said when offered to a chance to address Judge Cynthia M. Raccuglia. After a brief pause he added, “And if they have something they want to get off their chest they can say it to me.”

Several members of Taylor’s family, seated at the front of the spectator gallery, shook their heads in disbelief and quietly scoffed at the offer to speak. Raccuglia told Swift no comments would be accepted from the gallery.

In open court, La Salle County State’s Attorney Todd Martin said Ottawa police were summoned April 19, 2021, to Taylor’s south-side apartment, where they found her dead from multiple stab wounds. A crime scene technician recovered a knife at the scene and the knife tested positive for DNA from both Taylor and Swift.

Ottawa police quickly developed Swift as a suspect — he had made troubling comments to witnesses who’d tipped off police — and he sat for a taped statement in which he admitted he left his home early April 19, let himself into Taylor’s apartment and then killed her.

Swift, Martin said, told police he acted “out of anger or jealousy.”

After the plea, Taylor family members filed out of the courtroom, several wiping away tears, without comment.

Thursday’s plea came as a minor surprise, insofar as there was, as of Thursday, no companion plea for Swift’s charges in Kendall County. There, Swift is alleged to have to tried to arrange the murders of two individuals attached to his murder case and trying to do so from his cell in Kendall County Jail. His next court date in Yorkville is Aug. 22.

Even without a disposition on his Kendall County charges, standing trial in La Salle County never was an attractive option for Swift. Weeks after Taylor’s killing, a La Salle County grand jury indicted Swift on charges.

While the murder charge was pending, Swift was charged in Yorkville for allegedly trying to arrange the murder of two individuals, one of them a judge. Raccuglia said in open court Thursday the judge targeted was her, but she told Swift she was unaffected by the allegation — “I could care less about that case” — and could proceed with the plea without conflict.

“The Ottawa Police Department is in support of the negotiated plea through the La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office in regard to the Michael Swift case,” the agency said in a statement. “It is a conclusion to a very sad and unfortunate incident.”