Of 30 mass killings in 2013, about a third are linked to robberies, burglaries, drugs or other crimes. In this case, a father and son were shot while delivering newspapers near a known drug house.
It's often said that some victims of crime were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That couldn't be more true for the Swiger boys, as they were known in Clarksburg, W.Va.
Fred Swiger, 70, and son Freddie, 47, were delivering the local newspaper before dawn July 26, as they had done daily for 30 years, when they were shot and killed execution-style on a dark residential street.
Sidney Muller, an ex-Marine who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, is charged with killing them as he left a house where moments earlier, he allegedly shot to death two younger men. Police say the initial killings were over a drug debt.
"They delivered papers and were on their paper route at the time. There is no indication that either of the Mr. Swigers had anything to do with any transaction that may have taken place inside the house," Harrison County prosecuting attorney Joe Shaffer said after the slayings.
"It was a known drug house," adds Police Det. Sgt. Jason Webber. "Unfortunately, two people who were in the wrong place got killed."
INTERACTIVE: Behind the bloodshed
Brian Jarvis, president of the Exponent-Telegram, the paper the Swigers delivered, says the Swigers were staples in the community — the only men who delivered the paper by foot in the town, and the only route that didn't get a single complaint. "They were always willing to help anyone who needed anything," he says.
Jarvis takes issue with the wrong place, wrong time characterization. "They were just where they were supposed to be," he says. "Every night, seven days a week, every day of the year — they never missed a day. Two a.m. to 5 a.m. They were there, delivering papers, like they were supposed to be."
The massacre shocked the town of 16,500 people 40 miles south of Morgantown. It is the bloodiest crime in local memory.
Webber says police believe Muller entered the home around 4 a.m. and shot and killed two friends who owed him money for a quantity of 30 mg Percocet pills. The prescription drug contains oxycodone, a semi-synthetic narcotic that is often abused.
Webber says that in this part of West Virginia, heroin and prescription pills are the biggest drug abuse problems and that the large Percocet pills sell on the street for $30 to $40 each. The wooden duplex on Locust Avenue had been identified previously by law enforcement investigators as a source of illegal drugs, he said.
Killed in the home were Christopher "Body'' Hart, 25, who lived there, and Todd Amos, 29, of Clarksburg.
"It was a known drug house,'' Webber says. "Unfortunately, two people who were in the wrong place got killed.''
Charlene Cochran, 56, Hart's mother, was sleeping next door and raced over when she was awakened by gunshots. She says her son, a 300-pound former bodybuilder, was bleeding to death but conscious.
She says her son told her that Muller had fired the shots with Hart's gun – a 9mm Beretta with a pearl handle that she had given him as a Father's Day present. She relayed that information to police, who arrested Muller a short time later after spotting him in his car at a McDonald's less than 20 miles away.
"I bought it for Body. He wanted it for Father's Day,'' Cochran says. "I wish I hadn't gotten it now. He begged me for it.''
Cochran, who cares for Hart's infant daughter while the mother is in prison on unrelated convictions, says her son told her he didn't know why the shots were fired.
She disputes that drugs were the motive and says Muller, Hart and Amos were longtime friends. She says Muller had a beef with Amos over a woman, and Hart tried to intervene.
"They were best friends. They went to school together. ... They hung out over here all the time,'' she said of her son, Amos and Muller.
Webber discounts her theory of a love triangle. "We have absolutely zero evidence that was the case,'' he says.
Muller is being held without bail in the Harrison County jail awaiting trial. His war service and possible mental issues related to it are likely to be raised in his defense.
From 2006 to 2010, he was a machine gunner in the Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of corporal and deployed to Iraq, Pentagon records show. He remained in the Marine Reserves for two more years, making sergeant, and saw combat in Afghanistan before leaving the service in 2012.
His public defender, Joel Mumford, declined to discuss Muller's mental state. He said at a court hearing in September that Muller had been diagnosed as bipolar and scored four out of five on a post-traumatic stress disorder test, The Exponent Telegram reported. He told the court Muller had hearing loss from proximity to 10 bomb explosions.
After a psychiatric examination, a judge ruled Muller fit for trial. But, Mumford says, "that doesn't always mean there's no other issues.''
He says there is nothing in Muller's past other than his military service to suggest he was capable of such acts.
"If you're putting people in situations where you have to do terrible things, then put them back in civilian life and think a situation like this might not evolve, that's very shortsighted,'' the defense attorney says.
Contributing: Natalie DiBlasio