One day after the second anniversary of the arson that destroyed four Greenwood restaurants, the Arson Alarm Foundation and Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance rewarded two people for coming forward with information that helped in the arrest and conviction of Kevin Todd Swalwell for setting a total of 11 fires in 2009 – 10 of them in Greenwood.
One of those receiving the award was Swalwell’s former wife, Carol Iverson. She shared the reward with her brother, Robert.
Robert Iverson and his sister, Carol, hold the presentation check while sitting on the stage at Taproot Theatre.
Swalwell was arrested Nov. 13, just after setting fire to a warehouse in Shoreline late the night before. He pleaded guilty to 11 fires, blaming his actions on mental illness, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Carol and Robert received the $18,500 reward this morning at Taproot Theatre, which was heavily damaged in the Oct. 23 fire, and which also owned the adjacent Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which was completely destroyed. Four businesses in that building on North 85th Street – Green Bean Coffeenouse, CC Teriyaki, Szechuan Bistro and Pho Tic Tac – were destroyed.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Building on North 85th Street on fire on Oct. 23, 2009.
Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance provided $15,000 towards the reward; the Arson Alarm Foundation, comprised of 11 insurance companies, added $3,500.
John Lewitt, lead investigator for the Seattle Police Department Arson and Bomb Squad, said that after the Iversons called in the tip, investigators had their eye on Swalwell for a while.
“It at least gave us something to go on,” Lewitt said. “Carol actually told me she hadn’t seen Kevin for at least 10 years.”
“I knew it was him right away,” Carol said.
She was married to Swalwell from 1994 to 2000 and divorced him while he was in prison for setting fire to their apartment building in 1995. When he got out of prison in 2002, he pounded on her door and she was very scared of him. She said as soon as she heard that the Greenwood arsonist was rolling up carpets and newspapers and shoving them under doors to light, she knew it sounded like her ex-husband.
But Carol said she was almost too scared to call police, and asked her brother to call instead.
“Because I thought he was going to come after me,” she said of Swalwell.
“Our public safety rests on you for stepping up…and having the courage to come forward and stop these Greenwood arsons,” said Karl Newman of the Arson Alarm Foundation. “Our heartfelt thanks.”
Lewitt said that while interrogating Swalwell, he went from having a very specific alibi the morning of the Oct. 23 arson, to saying he was just a lookout for the Nov. 9 fire that burned Olive You. Swalwell first pleaded not guilty, then later changed his plea to guilty.
The 11 fires that Swalwell was convicted of setting:
- The former OK Corral restaurant at 8733 Greenwood Ave. N. on June 19.
- Behind a building housing Moonphoto and Wish at 7708 Greenwood Ave. N. on Aug. 12.
- A house fire at 108 NW 84th St. on Aug. 13. That fire seriously burned one man and displaced another family.
- A building housing O-Rings West at 1111 N. 98th St. on Aug. 13.
- The Eleanor Roosevelt Building at 208 NW 85th St., on Oct. 23; that fire destroyed Green Bean Coffeehouse, Pho Tic Tac, CC Teriyaki and Szechuan Bistro; and heavily damaged Taproot Theatre, and caused smoke and water damage to several other adjacent businesses.
- CPA Seattle at 338 NW 85th St. on Nov. 5.
- Rosewood Guitar at 8401 Greenwood Ave. N. on Nov. 5.
- Moonphoto at 7704 Greenwood Ave. N. on Nov. 8.
- Olive You at 8516 Greenwood Ave. N. on Nov. 9.
- Greenwood Quickstop at 8102 Greenwood Ave. N. on Nov. 9.
- The massive blaze at NW Discount in Shoreline on Nov.12
He was also convicted of second degree burglary for breaking into the Green Bean Coffeehouse just prior to setting it on fire.
The 10 Greenwood fires caused more than $2.2 million in damage.
Carol said she didn’t know anything about a reward until several months after he was arrested. The Iversons plan to use the money to pay some bills and maybe go out for a nice dinner.
“I’m proud of her,” Robert said of his sister.
“Don’t be afraid to do something,” Carol said. “Don’t be afraid to do what’s right.”