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Sweet Injustice


Sweet Injustice

Michael Sweet’s childhood was scarred by the constant fighting between his mother and father. When his mother, Marlene, was drinking she would sometimes become violent with his father. His father Roger, however, was frequently violent and abusive to his mother. Michael recalled his father shoving his mother into walls and even pointing a gun at her once (Brasier, 2007). The depravity of Roger Sweet would stretch beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Roger and Marlene Sweet were raising their son Michael in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The couple had a tumultuous relationship and Roger was frequently violent and abusive to his wife. Marlene often had bruises on her face and arms. Their son often overheard his mother’s pleas for help as she shouted, “Stop hurting me!” and “Stop choking me” (Brasier, 2007). She had once even suffered a broken leg. Eventually, however, she would suffer an injury she could not recover from.

On June 10th, 1990, Marlene Sweet’s body was found in her bathroom. It appeared she had fallen and hit her head on the doorknob. She was transferred to the hospital and put in critical care with a skull fracture. Six days later, Marlene Sweet passed away. Her death was ruled accidental.

It didn’t take long for Roger Sweet to move on. He met Lizzie Mae Collier shortly after his wife’s death. Lizzie gushed over her new man and the nice things he would do for her. According to Lizzie’s sister, Roger would do nice things such as fill Lizzie’s gas tank up or clean her car (Hunt & Schmitt, 2007). Her family thought he was a nice man and were delighted when the couple married in 1991. Lizzie then changed her name to Lizzie Collier-Sweet.

The couple settled in Brownstown Township, Michigan. They remained married for the next sixteen years. On January 8th, 2007, around 10 o’clock in the morning, the fire department was called to the couple’s home. The home was engulfed in flames and burned to the ground. The investigators noticed some suspicious clues at the fire. For one, the garden hose was on the deck running. There was a gas can on the floor of the family room.

There were boxes in the home, suggesting maybe someone was moving out. Additionally, several electronics were tossed around and in disarray and cords were cut on several items. The conclusion was that there had been some sort of struggle in the home and the fire was eventually ruled an arson. However, the Sweets were not in the home.

Roger Sweet was alive and well and located immediately after the fire. His wife, Lizzie, was nowhere to be found. She was now listed as a missing person. As the investigation began, the investigators confiscated a partially burned diary from the remains of the home. In the diary, entries described marital problems between Roger and Lizzie. They also decided to interview Roger about the fire.

Roger was willing to speak with investigators. They asked him how he thought the fire was likely started. His response was to say his wife “probably started the fire and went out in the woods to kill herself” (People V. Roger Sweet, 2008). Roger also indicated that his wife may have thrown his computers in the hallway, away from the office where he kept them, because she was annoyed that he spent so much time online. He indicated that he was an online gambler.



Police soon learned that Roger and Lizzie were in the process of separating and divorcing. Roger remained cooperative during the investigation. The arson dogs picked up a scent on Roger’s shoes, so those were taken into evidence. In Lizzie’s vehicle they found notes that Lizzie had wrote accusing Roger of having an affair with “the retard down the street” (People V. Roger Sweet, 2008). Roger explained who the girl referenced was but denied having any sexual relationship with her. However, upon interviewing the nineteen-year-old mentally impaired girl, she admitted that she and Roger had sexual contact on more than one occasion.

Roger was brought in for questioning and read his rights. The police eventually wore him down and he admitted to having the sexual relationship with her. Because she was developmentally delayed, Roger Sweet was charged with sexual assault on January 12th, 2007, just four days after his home burned down.

Roger was in more trouble than he knew, however. The computers that were taken from his home were being searched by authorities for clues as to what happened and where Lizzie was. Police suspected him of harming Lizzie and setting his home on fire. At this point, they also learned about the death of Marlene Sweet in 1990. On January 13th, 2007, Marlene Sweet’s death investigation was reopened.

On January 18th, 2007, the Oakland County coroner ruled that Marlene Sweet died of homicide, not an accidental death (Meyer, 2008). “Here injuries were of such a nature that, to my mind, they could only be a result of having been inflicted by someone else” Dr. Ljubisa Dragovic would later testify (Brasier, 2007). Injuries were noted to her face, neck, arms, head, and shoulder indicating she has been the victim of a vicious beating before her death.

Remember that computer confiscated? The investigators found child pornography on those computers, which Roger already told authorities were his and not used by his wife. On February 16th, 2007, Roger Sweet was charged for possession of child pornography. His life seemed to be on a downward spiral since the fire destroyed his home and his wife Lizzie had disappeared.

On April 12th, 2007, investigators had gathered enough evidence from those who knew Marlene and Roger Sweet around the time of Marlene’s death to determine that Roger Sweet most likely caused his wife’s death. He was charged with first degree murder in the death of Marlene Sweet. “We believe Marlene Sweet was a victim of domestic violence through her marriage to Roger Sweet and suffered injuries, including broken bones, and ultimately a fractured skull which caused her death” Farmington Hills Police Chief William Dwyer told the press (Associated Press, 2007).

On July 27th, 2007, things got worse for Roger. He was indicted on federal child pornography charges when it was determined he produced child pornography using the mentally disabled girl, who was only sixteen at the time (Associated Press, 2008). While Lizzie remained missing, Roger Sweet was offered a plea deal for her disappearance given the enormity of other charges against him. However, he declined this deal in January of 2008.

Roger Sweet went to court first for the sexual assault charge first, for which he was found guilty as charged. He was sentenced to ten to seventeen years on this charge. He then faced his federal charges of child pornography, again found guilty. This time he was sentenced to twenty-one years and ten months in federal prison, to run concurrently to his state sentence. Upon realizing he was going to prison for a significant amount of time, Sweet plead no contest to second degree murder in the death of Marlene Sweet. He was sentenced to fifteen to thirty years for the murder.

While Roger Sweet was off the Michigan streets, his second wife Lizzie remained a missing person. Her family became frustrated with the lack of leads and felt that because Lizzie was a black woman, perhaps her case was not getting the attention it deserved. They also assumed that Roger Sweet had something to do with her disappearance. They held out hope she may be alive somewhere.

While Roger remained in prison, the search for Lizzie continued. The case, considered cold, seemed to yield no clues about what happened to Lizzie. Theories emerged including that Lizzie became aware of Roger’s pornography and confronted him. Upon confrontation, perhaps Roger killed her and then burned the house down in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

In 2013, a skull was found about twenty miles south of Detroit, Michigan. Forensic and anthropologic testing was done. and dental records were compared to missing persons. The skull was identified as Lizzie Collier-Sweet nearly six years after her disappearance. However, her cause of death could not be determined by examination of the skull alone and no other evidence was found. Lizzie’s family could bury her and get at least some closure knowing where she was. Roger Sweet remains a suspect, but the authorities have not been able to prove wrongful death in Lizzie’s case.

While Sweet remained in prison on this other charges, Lizzie’s case once again grew cold with no proof that she was murdered. However, in April of 2021, Roger Sweet applied for compassionate release. In his petition, Roger Sweet presented evidence that he had exhausted all administrative remedies with his last appeal denied in January of 2021. This is apparently a factor in consideration for compassionate release. Additionally, he claimed to have a medical condition putting him at high risk for contracting Covid-19 (United States V. Sweet, 2021).

Sweet, now seventy-three years old, has chronic kidney disease and was already diagnosed once with covid-19 and hypoxia resulting in a hospitalization and respiratory failure. He also has a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. Sweet did, however, get the Moderna covid-19 vaccine while in prison. He stated in his petition that despite this, he was still at high risk for contracting the virus and has a high risk of death if he does.

The court granted Sweet’s petition for compassionate release, citing that he has had no disciplinary infractions since his incarceration and is a “model inmate”. After fourteen years in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, Sweet was given compassionate release to prevent him from contracting Covid-19. He was released with electronic monitoring and house arrest in 2021 with requirements to register as a sex offender, receive counseling, be monitored by a parole officer, and participate in a computer/internet monitoring program.

The authorities who investigated Sweet for Marlene and Lizzie’s deaths as well as the sexual assault and child pornography charges were disgusted by the judge’s decision to release him. However, Judge Victoria Roberts said, “Without a single disciplinary action in 14 years of incarceration, Sweet’s behavior demonstrates a respect for the law and indicates how he may perform on supervised release” (Dutton, 2021). Authorities stated they were continuing to work Lizzie Collier-Sweet’s case and would put fresh eyes on the case given Sweet’s release.

How does a man convicted of multiple sexual and violent crimes get out of prison after only fourteen years? The miscarriage of justice in this case is astounding. Roger Sweet is a predator. He abused his wives and most likely killed them both. He subjected multiple people to unnecessary pain and trauma. Hopefully, authorities will find the evidence required to put Roger Sweet back in prison, this time seeking justice for Lizzie Mae.

References

Dutton, J. (2021) Roger Sweet, who killed his wife and raped teen, released early from prison over covid risk; Retrieved at; Roger Sweet, Who Killed His Wife and Raped Teen, Released Early From Prison Over COVID Risk (msn.com)

Associated Press (2008) Man gets time for wife’s ’90 slaying; Livingston County Daily Press and Argus; Retrieved at: 26 Nov 2008, 7 - Livingston County Daily Press and Argus at Newspapers.com

Lawrence, E. and Erb, R. (2013) Missing woman identified, but mystery remains; Detroit Free Press; Retrieved at: 29 Mar 2013, Page A4 - Detroit Free Press at Newspapers.com

Associated Press (2013) Officials: skull belongs to woman missing 6 years; The Herald-Palladium; Retrieved at: 29 Mar 2013, A2 - The Herald-Palladium at Newspapers.com

Hunt, A. & Schmitt, B. (2007) Clues lead to husband in death, arson cases; Detroit Free Press; Retrieved at: 19 Jan 2007, 13 - Detroit Free Press at Newspapers.com

Associated Press (2007) Murder warrant issues in man in first wife’s 1990 death; Livingston County Daily Press and Argus; Retrieved at: 23 Feb 2007, 5 - Livingston County Daily Press and Argus at Newspapers.com

Meyer, Z. (2008) Year passes, family waits; Detroit Free Press; Retrieved at: 08 Jan 2008, 15 - Detroit Free Press at Newspapers.com

Brasier, LL (2007) Son tells court that Sweet abused wife before she died; Detroit Free Press; Retrieved at: https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=77039960&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjM2MzAwOTk0MiwiaWF0IjoxNjIxMTM0NTUxLCJleHAiOjE2MjEyMjA5NTF9.VKFGG5bRSPbZv18hJxl2cnAMpi9ipMQjw6NqgpjZHN0

United States V. Sweet (2021) Amended order granting defendants petition for compassionate release

People V. Roger Sweet (2008) State of Michigan Court of Appeals

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