LUVERNE -- Post-conviction relief for Randy Leeroyal Sweeney, convicted in August 2008 for the murder of Carrie Nelson in Luverne’s Blue Mounds State Park, was denied in action taken Wednesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The ruling affirms an earlier opinion rendered by Judge Gordon Moore in Rock County District Court.
Swaney was charged with the first-degree murder of Nelson, a Blue Mounds State Park worker who was 20 when found dead May 20, 2001, in the park office. It was the first time in state history that a state park worker had been found murdered on duty. Swaney's involvement in Nelson’s killing was not alleged until 2007, when DNA and fingerprint evidence connected him to the crime.
Swaney lost a set of appeals in 2010 and applied for post-conviction relief in 2015 while citing multiple issues. The post-conviction court denied the issues, and Swaney subsequently argued it abused its discretion on five claims. Those claims were dealt with in direct appeal in 2010, and therefore cannot be re-addressed.
A portion of Swaney’s post-conviction relief petition ruled upon Wednesday by the MInnesota Supreme Court was based on the Supreme Court opinion that reversed the second murder conviction of Josue Fraga of Worthington, leading to a third trial. Swaney cited an issue with a specific juror he believed was biased, and referred to the State vs. Fraga reversed conviction as a reason for a segment of the relief petition.
Among the evidence supporting Swaney’s 2008 conviction were a watch bearing his DNA found to Nelson’s body, the finding of his palm print on the counter of the park office, his fingerprints on a flyer found near the scene and the location near the body of a pack of cigarettes manufactured by the brand he typically smoked. Additionally, witnesses described a vehicle similar to Swaney’s leaving the park office area.
A jury convicted Swaney in a little more than six hours.