Multiple surveillance videos led to a guilty verdict Friday in a murder trial that focused on a dispute over a loose $5 bill at an East Austin convenience store.
Without hard proof that would have simplified the case, such as a confession or a recovered firearm, the videos gave a minute-by-minute account of the moments that preceded Carlos Swist being shot in the head on the morning of March 1, 2016.
The jury deliberated for about two hours Friday before finding Dedric Dixon guilty of murder in Swist’s death. Dixon, who faces up to life in prison, showed no emotion when the verdict was read. He had not been sentenced as of press time.
Outside of the courtroom, Swist’s work supervisor and cousin, Patrick Hancock, said he was pleased with the outcome.
“It doesn’t bring Carlos back,” he said. “But hopefully the family and Carlos can rest now.”
Hancock, a manager at the Bill Doran Company, testified at trial that Swist, a truck driver who transported flowers, never returned to the shop after going to the store for cigarettes and a drink. Police found Swist with one gunshot wound to the head inside of his company van, which had smashed into a tree in the 4600 block of Springdale Road. The tires kept spinning, creating friction with brush that resulted in a fire that engulfed the van in flames.
Authorities continued their investigation at a nearby Sunoco store after Swist’s girlfriend told them he had been involved in an argument there that morning. The store’s surveillance camera caught Swist dropping a $5 bill on the ground while removing cash from his pocket to pay for items. He moved to another area of the store as another customer, Dixon, entered and went to the counter. Swist realized his mistake and bent over to pick up the bill. But Dixon signaled that it belonged to him, and took the money from Swist’s grip. They left the store separately; Dixon speeding away in a silver Suzuki SUV, and Swist at normal speed in the white work van.
Video taken moments later at other businesses, including Torchy’s headquarters, shows the Suzuki following closely behind the van.
Several minutes later, the Suzuki is seen again, this time traveling in the opposite direction, away from the scene of the van wreck.
Police said the projectile recovered from Swist’s head matches an unfired .357-caliber round they located near the driver’s seat in Dixon’s car.
Dixon’s lawyers put on a witness Friday who said Dixon was at his house around the time of the death talking with him about sports. Another witness testified that a different man admitted to the killing in a conversation at an area Mexican restaurant.
The murder case was an uncommon one in that the victim, Swist, was himself a convicted murderer. According to a March 2003 arrest affidavit, masked individuals kicked in the door of a North Austin home and robbed a man before shooting him. Swist pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for serving five years in prison.
His brother, Drake Swist, said Carlos Swist had turned things around before his death.
“He took that as a positive and changed it over into good,” he said. “We felt for the other family. I know if he was here he would say he was sorry for that.”
Swist had additional convictions for aggravated kidnapping, assault family violence and criminal mischief.
Drake Swist said he’s thankful for the efforts of Austin police and the Travis County district attorney’s office.
“He’s going to be missed,” he said. “We love him.”