Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck spoke glowingly Monday morning about the investigation by Easton police into the March 5 break-in and attempted indecent assault in a College Hill residence that led to the arrest Saturday of a Bethlehem man.
Not only is Clement Swaby, 34, of the 600 block of Hayes Street, charged in the burglary and ensuing theft and assault try, but he’s “a strong person of interest for us” in the Feb. 22 break-in and theft across the street, Houck said.
“A lot of it has to do with that Easton police investigated the second incident,” Houck said of the crime in a privately owned home in the 400 block of McCartney Street that is divided into apartments.
He pointed, as an example, to the day and night process of determining an SUV — that was seen early in the day on March 5 on security cameras on McCartney Street and surrounding blocks, city police patrol vehicle cameras and a Phillipsburg police license plate reader — was rented by the suspect.
“From there, the rest of history,” Houck said. “It was extraordinary work by them.”
Swaby was arrested at his home and eventually confessed to the March 5 break-in, court papers say.
“Easton’s involved in the first one now because of their arrest in the second one,” Houck said. “We got our man for the second one.”
“Numerous investigators working on this very long hours, multiple days in row, continuing to follow up on new leads and reevaluating old information,” Easton police Lt. Matthew Gerould explained about the effort. “The investigation has been worked keeping both crimes in mind.”
But Easton only had a small — and short — role at the beginning.
Officers from Easton’s Patrol Division did respond early in the morning of Feb. 22, but after assisting at the scene of the 3:52 a.m. crime, it was determined that Lafayette College Public Safety would head the investigation because, as Houck said, the college owns the off-campus property so that made it like an on-campus crime.
Easton police “go to the scene, it’s Lafayette’s jurisdiction,” Houck said. Lafayette Public Safety is “a police department in and of itself.”
By 5:55 a.m. on Feb. 22, pretty much all Easton police personnel had cleared the scene on College Hill, a sergeant said at the time, much different from the three-hour presence less than two weeks later as that crime scene was processed and detectives got involved.
A Lafayette spokesman was asked Monday why the college didn’t use the expertise and equipment of city police after the first couple of hours on Feb. 22.
“Regarding the Feb. 22 incident, EPD has taken the lead in this investigation,” Lafayette Vice President for Communications Mark Eyerly said in an email. “They have been assisting us, and we will continue to work with them on the investigation.
“Lafayette Police initially took the lead because it involved a College-owned property. We cannot comment on why EPD has become the lead agency, as this is an ongoing investigation.”
Houck said Easton police were in touch with his office constantly during the investigation of the March 5 incident, but “Lafayette has never called us” about the Feb. 22 crime.
Houck said the district attorney’s office is very willing to work with Lafayette, as are city police. But the request never came.
“As to the DA’s office, we normally involve the DA’s office when a suspect has been identified and charges would be filed,” Eyerly said.
Easton’s Criminal Investigation Division wasn’t brought in until the second crime, Gerould said.
“The delay between the first and the second one, that put us behind,” Houck said. “At this point there is a chance to work with Lafayette. Now that (Easton has) solved their issue. This guy is a person of interest.”
Gerould said his division is now heading the initial investigation and working with Lafayette Public Safety.
“We thought this perpetrator had dangerous all over it,” Houck said of the man armed with a knife. Easton police “acted on it very quickly. It was just a lot of old-fashioned police work. They just kept forwarding the ball” day after day.
But Easton wasn’t alone.
“A lot of departments worked tirelessly in many. many different ways,” Gerould said as city police reached out to numerous previous partners.
By the time of the arrest, Bethlehem police, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the FBI, New Jersey State Police Fugitive Task Force, the Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, Police Department, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Phillipsburg Police Department, the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and Lafayette Public Safety had been involved in the investigation of the March 5 incident, he said.
As to the scope of the effort, Gerould pointed to the names of several city detectives that come up as court papers lay out the probe.
The district attorney was just pleased Easton police were involved this time.
“I’m glad they were able to work the second case,” Houck said. “I’m not sure the results would have been the same had they not been involved.”
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Tony Rhodin can be reached at email@example.com.