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[00:00:00]

Due to the graphic nature of this killer's crimes, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions of poisoning and murder that some people may find offensive. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.

[00:00:18]

It was a still quiet night in the suburban town of Quincy, Illinois.

[00:00:23]

But on 18th Street, light from an upstairs unit pierced the pitch black inside the building.

[00:00:29]

Odd smells and sounds emanated from the apartment of 30 year old Joseph Michael Swango. His dingy room was a mess littered wall to wall with dirty clothing and filthy kitchen supplies.

[00:00:43]

The med school graduate hunched over a table of deadly concoctions, violent newspaper clippings and magic spell books, syringes, needles and vials of strange solutions surrounded him.

[00:00:56]

The cabinet above Michael was filled with crudely labelled bottles, boxes of potent chemicals and insect poisons, a small dose of any of them enough to kill dozens. It was his own private murder lab.

[00:01:11]

He grabbed a book emblazoned with a skull and crossbones and flipped to a page about arsenic poisoning. Reading carefully. Michael pulled out a box of ant killer and measured several doses of the sugary granules into a bag as the sun rose.

[00:01:27]

Michael donned his EMT uniform for the early shift, even though he hadn't slept a wink. He had a spring in his step. In fact, he felt so good he decided to pick up donuts for his co-workers, and he had a special ingredient to sprinkle on top. Hi, I'm Greg Polson.

[00:01:57]

This is Serial Killers, a podcast original. Every episode we dive into the minds and madness of serial killers. Today, we're finishing our exploration of Joseph Michael Swango. I'm here with my co-host, Vanessa Richardson.

[00:02:10]

Hi, everyone. You can find episodes of Serial Killers and all other cast originals for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to stream serial killers for free on Spotify.

[00:02:21]

Just open the app and type serial killers in the search bar.

[00:02:25]

Last time we followed as Michael's militaristic childhood Feddis obsession with violence before he decided medicine was the best way to be nearer to death. And once he was close enough, he developed a taste for murder.

[00:02:39]

Today, we'll learn how he slipped through the cracks of the U.S. medical system to poison countless patients in his care, both in his home country and abroad.

[00:02:51]

We've got all that and more coming up. Stay with us.

[00:03:00]

In early 1984, 29 year old Joseph Michael Swango fascination with poisonous concoctions turned deadly, he utilized high doses of chemicals from his hospital's medical supplies, then went room to room experimenting on unsuspecting patients as he swept through the Ohio State medical complex.

[00:03:21]

Like the Grim Reaper, Michael felt a power unlike any he'd experienced before to his victims. Michael was a god. He held their fates in his hand or more accurately, in a syringe.

[00:03:35]

When patients started dying at an alarming rate, Ohio State led an investigation that uncovered no physical evidence against Michael. The poisons he used left the body quickly, making them undetectable after death. Michael was exonerated and restored to his internship as he returned to work.

[00:03:53]

Michael was more confident than ever. He felt invincible, and he intended to make the nurses and doctors who accused him pay.

[00:04:03]

Taking revenge would also be an opportunity to experiment with new toxins and new methods of poisoning delivery. Initially, he had injected deadly cocktails directly into his patients IV lines. Now he was ready for something else.

[00:04:18]

Over the next few weeks, Michael targeted colleagues who testified against him in the investigation. One nurse in particular noticed that her lunch was regularly tampered with around the same time she suffered headaches and bouts of debilitating nausea.

[00:04:34]

Satisfied with his revenge, Michael prepared to move into his surgery rotation. He was excited at the possibilities.

[00:04:41]

Open to him, a new ward meant a new set of patients and staff to act as unwitting guinea pigs.

[00:04:48]

First off, Michael was curious to try out a new poison from the supply closet. He wanted to see exactly what it did, how it killed, and he decided 72 year old leukemia patient Charlotte Warner would make the perfect test subject after a surreptitious injection.

[00:05:07]

Michael waited as Charlotte died from massive blood clots all over her body.

[00:05:14]

The attending physician was mystified by Charlotte's death, but Michael was titillated and ready for another. His next mysterious injection for a surgical patient, Evelyn Perrini, caused bleeding from her eyes and other orifices upon seeing the curious symptom. Another doctor likened it to a poisonous snake bite.

[00:05:34]

It was an apt description for Michael. He slithered through the hospital, dispensing his venom at every chance, and he was ready to get more creative. His goal hadn't changed. But now Michael was hunting differently by experimenting with new toxic cocktails he mixed at home.

[00:05:53]

He displayed an evolving M.O. Vanessa is going to take over and the psychology here and throughout the episode, please note, Vanessa is not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, but she has done a lot of research for this show.

[00:06:06]

Thanks, Greg Michaels experimentations were likely his way of finding the method of poisoning that gave him the biggest thrill. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, the authors assert that a killer's experience and confidence will shape and modify their M.O. over time. In contrast, an offender's signature often remains stable and reflects what's unique about the killer because it goes beyond the act of murder. Although Michael didn't always poison in the same way, he maintained a consistent power dynamic, it was important that his crimes made him feel powerful and put him in control.

[00:06:51]

But there are some things Michael couldn't control in March of 1984, he learned that he was not invited back to the hospital's residency program. The conclusion of his internship that year would mark the end of his time at Ohio State suddenly in freefall.

[00:07:07]

Michael was desperate to regain control over his life and his position amongst his peers. If the college administration wanted to reject him, he would punish them back and he knew exactly the right dosage to do it with.

[00:07:23]

In April, Michael offered to pick up his favorite food for all the residents on duty, Kentucky Fried Chicken. But instead of sharing a bucket, he insisted everyone order.

[00:07:33]

Separately, Michael passed out the individual containers of chicken, telling the doctors it was extra spicy. Three hours later, while many of them were still in the operating room, the physicians became violently ill. They were overcome with nausea and couldn't stop vomiting.

[00:07:51]

The severe symptoms lasted for more than a week, but the only explanation anyone could offer was food poisoning.

[00:07:59]

In Michael's mind, he'd given them the perfect parting gift.

[00:08:04]

Once he finished up at the hospital, Michael planned to return home to Illinois, but there was something he needed. First, despite his suspicious involvement in patients deaths, Michael requested and received three letters of recommendation from professors at Ohio State. These were necessary in order to get his medical license.

[00:08:23]

With professional approval in hand, Michael was ready for the next step. When he returned to Quincy in 1984, the handsome med student moved into an apartment and returned to his previous job as a paramedic.

[00:08:37]

Michael thrived as a first responder. He loved being open about his obsession with death and violence, and his EMT colleagues seemed more inclined to dismiss it as gallows humor.

[00:08:48]

At first, his co-workers thought Michael was a charming med school graduate with a good work ethic.

[00:08:54]

But his disturbing comments and behaviors soon drew concern and ridicule.

[00:09:00]

He constantly paced and was noticeably on edge. Also, he rarely spent time in the break room with the others, and when he did, it was only to paste new entries in his unnerving scrapbooks.

[00:09:11]

You see, Michael had once again returned to his childhood hobby of collecting newspaper and magazine articles about murder, car crashes and poisonings, according to James B.. Stewart's book Blind Eye. When a co-worker asked Michael why he had so many articles about poison. Michael replied, It's a good way to kill people.

[00:09:34]

It was clear Michael's compulsion to kill hadn't disappeared. What's more, he idolized serial killers he saw on the news they were his heroes. Their brutal murders fascinated him, yes. But it seemed he was particularly interested in the media coverage their deeds earned.

[00:09:51]

In 1989, New York magazine journalist Eric Pooley described the emerging wave of onscreen violence and true crime stories with the phrase If it bleeds, it leads. In a book chapter entitled Profiling Television Violence, three communications professors said that media attention on violence sent a, quote, message of power and risk of perpetrators and victims of a dramatic pecking order.

[00:10:20]

This pecking order echoed the power dynamic Michael established with his patients, one reinforced by the somewhat flattering media coverage serial murderers enjoyed.

[00:10:31]

But its troubling obsession with death and killers made Michael's co-workers uneasy, as people often do when they need to work with someone who's different or off-putting. They reacted by trying to ignore Michael and his strange threatening remarks. And like the doctors and nurses who turned on him in Ohio, Michael decided punishment was in order.

[00:10:54]

It had been a while since he poisoned anyone, and this seemed like a great opportunity. He stopped at a gardening store on his way home and purchased several boxes of and Keiller containing arsenic.

[00:11:05]

The boxes joined Michael's burgeoning homemade collection of toxins. He spent most of his nights in the kitchen, his makeshift poison lab working into the night to concoct new deadly combinations.

[00:11:18]

Lethal chemicals, handcrafted compounds and known poisons lined the shelves on the dining table. Syringes and vials sat atop black market instructional books on poison.

[00:11:30]

Among them were the poor man's James Bond, a die guide for chemical weaponry, as well as the book of ceremonial magic and occult text. It seems Michael's fascination with poisons took him beyond everyday science and into the realm of mysticism.

[00:11:48]

Around the books were handwritten index cards. With scribbled recipes instead of flour and eggs, the ingredients list included things like ricin, botulin, nicotine and cyanide as Michael experimented with his concoctions.

[00:12:03]

He was eager to see what they could do. No longer able to inject hospital patients, he'd have to resort to more primitive methods. And on September 14th, 1984, Michael was ready to make his next move.

[00:12:21]

Before work, he carefully measured out several doses of ant killer, the poison was sugar coated, making it the perfect topping for a sweet treat.

[00:12:30]

It was still early when Michael stopped at a donut shop. He selected a box of pastries and took them to go. His co-workers would just be delighted with a surprise.

[00:12:41]

Breakfast in the car. Michael sprinkle the donuts with the ant killer. The tiny granules were invisible atop the icing and glaze.

[00:12:51]

When Michael arrived at work, he announced he'd brought treats and placed them in the break room for all to enjoy. The paramedics swarmed the doughnuts with excitement as they bid into the arsenic laden pastries.

[00:13:05]

Michael sat calmly on the couch, grinning. No one noticed that he didn't have any of the doughnuts himself. He just waited to watch what happened.

[00:13:18]

Up next, Michael's poison spreads. Hi, it's Greg Parkhurst has a brand new series sure to become your next podcast, Obsession.

[00:13:29]

It's called Medical Murders, and it exposes a dark and disturbing diagnosis that not every doctor wants to extend your life.

[00:13:38]

Every Wednesday, medical murders introduces you to the worst to the medical community has to offer men and women who took an oath to save lives, but instead use their expertise to develop more sinister specialties.

[00:13:52]

Join host Alistair Burton as he examines the formative years and motives of history's most infamous killers, dissecting their medical backgrounds with expert analysis and professional insight provided by practicing M.D. Dr. David Kipa, you'll investigate a wide range of Heinies health care workers like the general practitioner believed to be the most prolific serial killer in modern history.

[00:14:15]

For the dentist who led a double life as a hit man, or even the doctor and gang member who makes deadly potions for unhappy housewives to use in their husbands when it comes to these true crime stories.

[00:14:28]

The only thing the doctor ordered is murder. Follow medical murders free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the story. In the summer of 1984, 29 year old EMT Michael Swango was sick of being the odd one out at his job. Luckily, he had experience dealing with workplace grievances under the guise of a special treat. He brought a box of doughnuts into the break room. His colleagues had no ideas. The sprinkles and icing on top were augmented with arsenic.

[00:15:06]

Within a half hour of eating them, the EMTs felt nauseous and dizzy. Michael watched as one by one, they ran to the bathroom to vomit and were sent home to recover, feigning concern.

[00:15:20]

Michael called his co-workers at home that night. They may have been confused to hear from him after hours, but found it odder still when he asked invasive questions. He interrogated them, wondering exactly how their symptoms developed. His curiosity about his handiwork knew no bounds, and he wasn't content.

[00:15:39]

Stopping at Doughnut's the next night, Michael and one of the poisoned paramedics were working a high school football game. After hearing his partner was still sick, Michael seized the opportunity to further experiment. He offered the man a Coke, handing him the soda in a paper cup.

[00:15:58]

As the EMT drank, he became dizzy and everything spun, his stomach cramped violently, and he staggered behind the ambulance to vomit. While the EMT went home to recover, Michael was left alone to ponder his next move over the next weeks.

[00:16:15]

Michael released his venomous attacks on several other employees. The pattern continued after poisoning their food and drinks, he'd call his colleagues, displaying an unsettling interest in their pain after enduring what he felt were personal jabs for some time.

[00:16:32]

Michael felt justified in his new punishment. He'd regained the power and felt invincible once more, with no one catching on. He didn't intend to stop any time soon. So when he saw a pitcher of iced tea unattended in the break room, Michael made his move with a quick glance over his shoulder.

[00:16:53]

Michael took out his trusty and poison and started in. Now the tea would taste sickly sweet in excitement.

[00:17:01]

Michael awaited reports of sickness, but his weight lasted nearly a week with no news. Then he received a call from the Adams County Sheriff's Office.

[00:17:12]

He had applied for a coroner's position and was formally invited for an interview.

[00:17:17]

Elated Michael surely felt this week couldn't get any better. He assumed his charming facade as he arrived ready for the interview. But he was surprised to find officers waiting for him.

[00:17:29]

The officers shackled Michael and charged him with battery. The iced tea had been a trap. Unbeknownst to Michael, his co-workers tested the drink and reported the results to police while Michael answered questions at the station.

[00:17:45]

Police entered his disheveled apartment, finding his secret lab. They were stunned by the deranged murder scrapbooks and shelves full of poisons, along with his stacks of incriminating books and recipes.

[00:17:58]

The intriguing case of a paramedic turned poisoner drew local media attention as the story developed. Public fascination with the case grew beyond the state's borders. Michael was delighted with the press reaction, which finally satisfied his desire for fame. In published research, social psychologist Brad Bushman identified a link between the attention seeking needs of narcissists and the attention granting rewards of media coverage, according to Bushman. The idea of widespread fame like that of Henry Lee Lucas or Ted Bundy sometimes attracts a pathological narcissist to violent acts.

[00:18:38]

And though Michael was never formally diagnosed as a narcissist, his behavior aligns with key traits of the condition, displaying still more narcissistic behavior.

[00:18:49]

Michael applied for a job as an E.R. doctor, despite his impending trial. Unfortunately, the hospital didn't uncover the charges. Armed with his recommendations from Ohio State, Michael charmed his way through an interview shortly after he was offered a position at the hospital.

[00:19:06]

Having always escaped serious punishment, 31 year old Michael seemed to believe the trial would turn out favorably. But in the spring of 1985, he was convicted of five counts of battery with non-fatal poisoning.

[00:19:22]

Surprisingly, the hospital executive who hired Michael served as a character witness at his sentencing hearing in August. The man was so charmed by Michael that he insisted he would still hire him even after the conviction. But the judge was impervious to Michael's appeal and sentenced him to the maximum five years in prison now behind bars.

[00:19:43]

Michael experienced a startling drop in power for the first time in years. He couldn't exercise control over others through medicine or poison, and he wasn't happy about it. Still, if he couldn't exert his power directly, he would channel it in a new way. Fame even locked up, Michael found a way to connect with the media.

[00:20:09]

On February 13th, 1986, Michael was interviewed from inside Illinois Centralia Correctional Center on National News, Michael maintained his innocence and swore by his Hippocratic oath with poise.

[00:20:23]

He assured viewers that he was not to be feared. Just having the chance to do so likely made him feel powerful once more, just for a moment. It was enough to get him through the next 18 months. After serving only half of his sentence, 32 year old Michael was released in August of 1987. He moved to Virginia, hoping to restart his medical career away from his tarnished reputation. But it was no good. No matter what he tried, his past was always uncovered.

[00:20:56]

Even changing his name didn't help. Every medical institution he applied to eventually discovered the truth.

[00:21:02]

Still, not everything was going badly. Amidst the slew of rejections, Michael met Kristin Kinney, a 25 year old strawberry blonde nurse.

[00:21:14]

After months of pleading for a date, Kristen agreed to go out with Michael. He told her he was a chemist.

[00:21:20]

And though she discovered that why she broke off her previous engagement to be with him in September of 1991, as his fledgling relationship with Kristen firmed up, Michael started corresponding with the University of South Dakota about her residency since losing his medical licenses in Illinois and Ohio, residency training was all that stood in the way of Michael becoming a licensed doctor again, and he wasn't ready to give up on that dream yet.

[00:21:50]

He fed the director at South Dakota a lie about his conviction. In an interview with the program, director, Michael spun a false story about vengeful colleagues framing him jealous that he was a doctor.

[00:22:02]

Michael claimed he just wanted a chance to re-establish his medical career to become a licensed physician. He'd been wronged, he said. But the University of South Dakota could make things right.

[00:22:16]

The director swallowed the story. In fact, he admired Michael's candor and empathized with the situation at every chance.

[00:22:24]

Michael deployed his charisma and false sincerity to persuade people that he was deserving of redemption.

[00:22:31]

So when superficial background checks seemed to confirm Michael's story, the board voted in his favor in March of 1992.

[00:22:42]

The 37 year old was welcomed into the South Dakota residency program at Veterans Hospital in Sioux Falls. Now a killer was walking their halls and no one knew but Michael Swango.

[00:22:55]

After years of frustrating setbacks, Michael had finally caught a break. Things were turning around for the put upon Poizner. In May of that year, he and Kristen got engaged and she joined him working at the hospital. They were a picture perfect couple, the surgeon in training and his nurse fiancee.

[00:23:16]

It was a well cultivated image. Michael knew his options for practicing medicine were running out, cheating past mistakes. He avoided graphic discussions of death and violence. He shed his nervous tics and talkative nature that's so frustrated his colleagues in the past.

[00:23:32]

His efforts paid off.

[00:23:35]

Both he and Kristen fit in well at the hospital.

[00:23:38]

In Michael's eyes, he'd orchestrated his most convincing con yet, and he might have gotten away with it were it not for his own hubris.

[00:23:50]

In October, he applied for membership to the American Medical Association. It's possible he felt that as an accredited member of the AMA, his status as a physician would be beyond rebuke, even without a medical license.

[00:24:03]

When the AMA reviewed Michael's application. It set alarm bells ringing. What was he doing? Practicing medicine again? An AMA official reached out to the director of Michael's residency program to reveal the truth about his conviction.

[00:24:20]

Immediately, his residency was suspended, with nurses and doctors in an uproar over the revelation. Things developed quickly the day after his suspension. The hospital asked Michael for his resignation, but he wasn't allowed to slink quietly away this time.

[00:24:36]

Once again, local media latched on to the story of the poisonous doctor. Reporters camped outside Michael's home, hounding him daily for interviews trapped in his home.

[00:24:47]

The facade Michael created at the hospital slipped away with no one watching. Michael unleashed his frustrations on Kristen, who was entirely unaware of his dark past.

[00:24:58]

As he festered, his more disturbing idiosyncrasies returned. He spent his days obsessing over the kills of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy and making new entries in his scrapbooks with the truth about his past and his real personality and laid bare.

[00:25:15]

Kristin lost faith in her fiance, say she no longer believed Michael was innocent. Soon after she began asking him questions, Kristen started experiencing headaches, weakness, muscle twitching, nausea and confusion, all symptoms of arsenic and nicotine poisoning. And it was the final straw. In April of 1993, Michael and Kristin separated as ever.

[00:25:40]

Michael was back on his feet with alarming speed. Just two weeks later, he was invited to interview for a psychiatry residency position at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. It seemed the school hadn't heard about his disastrous stint in South Dakota.

[00:25:57]

Michael charmed the board at Stony Brook and tried out a new lie to cover his conviction. This time, he swore that his battery charge came from a drunken barroom brawl in his youth. The school bought the story they couldn't wait to have. Michael joined their ranks.

[00:26:13]

So on June 1st, 1993, Michael was accepted into a psychiatric residency at Stony Brook and he was determined to make the most of this new opportunity to kill.

[00:26:28]

Up next, Michael is finally backed into a corner. Now back to the story. When 38 year old Michael Suong goes residency and life in South Dakota went up in flames, he packed up and headed to New York. He secured a new position and in the summer of 1993 began a new residency at the VA hospital affiliated with Stony Brook University.

[00:26:56]

Michael felt the clock was ticking. His past never stayed buried for long as he walked into the hospital. He was hungry to taste the kind of power he only experienced with murder. There was no time to waste.

[00:27:10]

Michael had barely been in the hospital a few hours when he claimed his first victim, Dominic Bufalino, was suffering from mild lung congestion when Michael injected him with a deadly poison, as James B.. Stewart describes in his book Blind Eye, when Michael called the patient's wife the next morning to report the death. He simply said we didn't expect him to expire by now. Michael cared little about his bedside manner, all the hard work he'd put into niceties, and South Dakota hadn't helped.

[00:27:43]

So what was the point? This time he was out for blood. He satisfied his thirst again.

[00:27:49]

In September, after Michael treated him, 60 year old Barron Harris slipped into a coma. Michael urged Baron's wife to sign a do not resuscitate order. But Michael wasn't around to see Baron's eventual death just months later.

[00:28:07]

In fact, Michael's time at the VA hospital was over before it really even started. A dean at the University of South Dakota heard about his new position and sounded the alarm. The news eventually reached the director at Stony Brook, and Michael was suspended.

[00:28:23]

When Michael pleaded for mercy, the director offered him advice that would turn out to be deadly, according to Stewart's book Blind Eye. He said the only way would be for you to go somewhere that really needed a doctor, somewhere that was desperate.

[00:28:40]

Michael knew he was running out of options, and if he couldn't maintain a job in the U.S., he would look for work somewhere else.

[00:28:48]

After months of looking, Michael was hired by the Lutheran Church to travel to Zimbabwe, where the need for doctors was desperate. Michael arrived in Zimbabwe in November of 1994 and headed to meet his new boss at the Manoni Mission Hospital with the director.

[00:29:06]

Asked Michael why he would come to a rural area to accept less money than he would get elsewhere.

[00:29:11]

Michael said he loved Africa. He seemed too good to be true, but Michael was anything but good or true. He'd forged his resume and recommendations to secure the position and was there for one reason only, and it had nothing to do with a love of the continent.

[00:29:30]

However, it was clear that Michael was not prepared for the role.

[00:29:34]

In fact, he was curiously incompetent for a doctor from the U.S. So he was sent to the city of Bulawayo for a five month internship in obstetrics and gynecology. Michael quickly became friends with the staff there. Michael earned a reputation as a hard working, likeable doctor, quickly becoming a favorite.

[00:29:54]

During the week, Michael remained attentive, determined and respectful of his superiors on weekends. He bonded with the physicians and their families at church and over sports. The connections he forged made it difficult to go back to my nanny in May of 1995.

[00:30:12]

Michael returned to the rural hospital, a different doctor, after his relatively carefree stay in the bustling city, the desolate Bush made Michael moody and unhappy. He felt trapped, powerless.

[00:30:26]

He threw himself into his work. He worked long hours, flying under the radar for a while. But before long, his murderous intent reemerged, ready to devastate the small hospital.

[00:30:38]

On May 24th, 1995, Michael carried a syringe of poison in his lab coat as he entered the room of Roder, Mallam Varno.

[00:30:48]

Roder had burns on over 20 percent of her body, but was sleeping peacefully when Michael arrived watching her chest rise and fall. Michael injected his syringe into Rhoda's IV as the poison coursed through her veins.

[00:31:05]

Michael felt life pulsing through his own. By the time her heart stopped, Michael was sure no one could stop him from killing again. He was on a roll. It's possible something about the death left him feeling empty. Watching the fear in his next victim's eyes might help change that. So one day he shook canniest Ms awake before injecting him with a poison. Michael watched as paralysis took over canniest body. Canniest remained awake, but unable to move or speak, he stared into Michael's cold eyes, terrified for whatever reason, Michael didn't see the murder through canniest, survived the poison and remembered every moment of the doctor's nightmare visit.

[00:31:54]

Once he recovered, he repeated his story to anyone who would listen.

[00:31:58]

While Michael insisted he must have hallucinated the whole incident, though his colleagues believed Michael at first, Kenia says hysteria caused suspicion. The whole affair made the hospital staff wary of Michael, but they didn't file a report just yet.

[00:32:15]

Far from being discouraged by the scrutiny, Michael felt emboldened to strike again. He went to the bedside of Katarzyna Shaffer, who was recovering from leg surgery and ordered the man's family to leave. Michael pulled the curtain closed around the bed. Then the screaming began.

[00:32:33]

After a few moments, Michael whipped the curtain open and strode from the room, his latest victim wailing behind him. Hours later, Katarzyna was dead.

[00:32:46]

It's possible Michael sensed he couldn't evade detection forever and sought to take as many lives as he could. So the very next day, Michael crept into the room of Filemon Chiyoko, a farmer recovering from an amputated foot. He injected him with a lethal substance, then promptly reported the death. Flushed with success.

[00:33:06]

Michael fell into dangerous habits. His confidence made him careless, and he ignored the messy trail of victims, witnesses and evidence left in his wake.

[00:33:18]

All he cared about was feeling power over the isolated town he was stranded in.

[00:33:24]

He took countless lives and just a few short months, but when he targeted one of his colleagues, everything spiraled.

[00:33:32]

Somehow, Michael poisoned a hospital nurse, Edith and Ngwenya, like many of the other colleagues he poisoned, Edith fell ill with sudden nausea, vomiting and chills.

[00:33:44]

Michael suggested Edith stay in the hospital for observation, at least for the night.

[00:33:49]

She died in her room that night, either from the original dose or after a final visit from Michael.

[00:33:56]

With their recent climbing death figures, the hospital was on edge, but the loss of Edith brought things to a boiling point. The director began an internal investigation into Edith's death and the alarming increase in fatalities, and it didn't take long for him to zero in on Michael.

[00:34:15]

Many of the recent death certificates had been staffed by Michael. The director didn't wait for further internal investigation. He took immediate action. Well, Michael was to blame for his crimes. It's fair to say that failings in the U.S. medical system allowed him to operate for so long. The U.S. facilities were decentralized and many preferred to handle their investigations privately in localizing their inquiries. They likely hoped to minimize the legal and financial fallout.

[00:34:45]

However, in Zimbabwe, the many any hospital pass their findings onto the police. It didn't take long for them to see Michael for what he was a diabolical killer.

[00:34:57]

Soon, authorities arrived to investigate Michael's home. Inside the filthy unit, Michael had created another private poisons lab. It was filled with needles, syringes, chemicals and hundreds of other poisonous materials. The police didn't arrest Michael that day, though. It was clear they were on to him in October of 1995 while police continued their investigation. The hospital formally dismissed Michael and as ever, he was ready to move on fairly quickly.

[00:35:30]

While awaiting trial in Zimbabwe, Michael somehow secured a position at a hospital in Zambia. However, he only made it two months before his past was uncovered.

[00:35:42]

From there, he fled to South Africa, staying in Johannesburg while figuring out his next move. While there, he found yet another hospital position, this time in Saudi Arabia. The only catch was that he would have to obtain his new work visa in the United States.

[00:35:59]

Meanwhile, the FBI had assembled a case against him and were ready to pounce. Michael either didn't know or didn't much care about the investigation and flew back to the U.S..

[00:36:12]

On June 27th, 1997, a 43 year old, Michael Swango, touched down at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. He planned to be in the U.S. for less than 24 hours, intending to pick up his visa at the airport, then immediately board a plane to the Middle East.

[00:36:29]

But the FBI had other plans as he disembarked and handed his passport to immigration officials. A warrant came up in the computer system. Michael was arrested and charged with defrauding the VA hospital at Stony Brook and with distributing his deadly poisons when authorities seized Michael's diary.

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They found it full of quotes from his favorite books about serial killers. One scribble read. He could look at himself in a mirror and tell himself that he was one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the world. He could feel that he was a God in disguise, God or not.

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Michael was sentenced to three years in jail for the fraud charge. Meanwhile, the government in Zimbabwe requested extradition for the murders he committed there.

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As the sentence was drawing to a close in the year 2000, the FBI charged Michael with three murders. They likely offered him a deal. If he pleaded guilty to the murders and accepted a life sentence, he would avoid extradition to Zimbabwe and a possible execution, fearing the death he'd brought to so many. Michael agreed to the deal, bidding farewell to any chance at freedom.

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To this day, Joseph Michael Swango sits in the Supermax U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. He has no scrapbooks, no control and no godlike powers. He's just a man after all.

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Thanks again for tuning into serial killers. We'll be back next time with a new episode.

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For more information on Joseph Michael Swango, amongst the many sources we used, we found Blind Eye, the terrifying story of a doctor who got away with murder by James B. Stewart.

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Extremely helpful to our research.

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You can find more episodes of Serial Killers and all of the podcast originals for free on Spotify, not only to Spotify, already have all of your favorite music, but now Spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy all of your favorite podcast originals like Serial Killers for free from your phone desktop or smart speaker to stream serial killers on Spotify. Just open the app and type serial killers in the search bar. We'll see you next time. Have a killer week.

[00:38:52]

Serial Killers was created by Max Cutler and is a podcast studio's original executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Mike Ramos with production assistants by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Aaron Larson.

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This episode of Serial Killers was written by Isabella Minichiello with writing assistants by Abigail Canon and stars Greg Polson and Vanessa Richardson. Hi, listeners, remember to check out the new precast original series, Medical murders every Wednesday beat the worst to the medical community has to offer men and women who took an oath to save lives, but instead use their expertise to develop more sinister specialties, follow medical murders free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.