Swoboda's mom: Mental health system failed son

Swoboda's mom: Mental health system failed son

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by Wayne Havrelly, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 14 at 9:35 AM

PORTLAND -- One month after a convicted bank robber and accused kidnapper was killed in a shootout with police, his mother says the mental health system failed her son.

On March 12, Kelly Swoboda was killed after he allegedly kidnapped a Milwaukie woman and robbed a bank.

Background: Milwaukie kidnap suspect shot by police near Wilson High

"My son was quiet and easy going and never hurt any of us, so when I see this stuff on TV I just go, 'It's so unreal,'" said Luella Swoboda, who has been extremely emotional since her son’s death.

She said she doubts she'll ever get over the pain of her son's death.

According to Luella, Kelly had a nearly 20-year struggle with depression. She says it was first diagnosed by his legal team after he was caught robbing banks in 1994.

"They said he had severe depression and chemical deficiency and that it put him to a point he had no control over himself," Luella said. "The experts thought he desperately needed a mental hospital and not jail."

The legal system chose prison. His mom said she could never learn details about her son's illness or whether he was getting treatment because of confidentiality laws.

"I kept telling them please, if he's got something that might affect the rest of the family, we need to know!" Luella said.

A little more than a year after his release, Kelly Swoboda died in a shootout with police after wounding a resource officer at Wilson High School. He was suspected of kidnapping a young woman from a Milwaukie tanning salon and robbing another bank.

Court documents obtained by KGW detail items seized from Kelly Swoboda's van right after he was killed. They include a purple dumbbell matching the young woman's description of what was inside her abductor's van.

There were also chains, rope, zip ties, an open padlock with keys and a box of latex gloves which investigators say appear to match gloves he was wearing on surveillance video.

Kelly was a ‘bright young boy’

It's all mind-boggling to Luella, who remembers a smiling, bright young boy. His fourth-grade teacher said he was so intelligent they wanted him to attend a private advanced school.

Luella said she and her husband couldn't afford it because they were raising seven other children.

Kelly Swoboda went on to play football and had a large group of friends at Milwaukie High School, many of whom attended his recent memorial.

Their sympathy cards comfort his devastated mother.

"It breaks my heart, he was so smart, but had to cope with that illness, a couple of times he'd look at me and said, 'Mom, I don't want to be like this,'" she said.

Luella said she has a lot of healing to do, but wants to dedicate the rest of her life to helping the mentally ill.

She says our nation's mental health system is broken and she wants to help fix it.

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