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NEW BERN  — District Attorney Scott Thomas announced that, in Craven County Superior Court yesterday, MICHAEL WAYNE BALLANCE, II, 30, of Havelock, pled guilty to the murder of his ex-wife, Summer Dawn Swindell, in April, 2015. The case was scheduled for trial before the guilty plea was entered. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Foster presided over this term of court, and the case was prosecuted in court by Mr. Thomas, and Assistant District Attorneys Karen Hobbs and Robert McAfee.

Summer Swindell, who was 22 years old at the time of her death and who resided in Havelock, disappeared from her residence during the overnight hours of April 27 – 28, 2015. Eventually, her body was discovered in the attic space of an abandoned house at the entrance to the Lake Tyler community, in north-western New Bern. An autopsy showed that she had been strangled to death.


Ms. Swindell and Ballance had been married for several years, but she divorced Ballance after he went to prison for a second time for felony crimes. They had two young children together, and Ms. Swindell had sought legal advice regarding custody of the children and child support. In addition, she began a new relationship that resulted in her engagement to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. An extensive police investigation showed that she was seen with Ballance withdrawing money from an ATM, and going to a convenience store, on the night she disappeared. Within hours of being seen at those locations, Ballance himself reported Ms. Swindell missing, and initiated attempts to take custody of the children. Over the course of the next 38 days, Ballance gave police multiple conflicting, incomplete, and false statements regarding his interaction with Ms. Swindell on that evening.

Forensic evidence, including cell phone location information, shoe imprints, and the presence of attic insulation on Ballance’s shoes, all placed Ballance at the scene where Ms. Swindell’s body was found. In addition, witnesses placed Ballance returning to the scene even after Ms. Swindell was reported missing.

Ballance pled guilty to one count of Second Degree Murder, and Judge Foster sentenced Ballance to a prison term of 276 to 344 months (23 to 29 ½ years). He also ordered Ballance to repay Ms. Swindell’s parents for the costs of her funeral. Ms. Swindell’s parents, who were present in court for the guilty plea, provided a statement to the court detailing their grief and loss, which was read in open court by Assistant D.A. Hobbs. The parents also stated their support of the guilty plea agreement and the prison sentence imposed.

The case was investigated by the Havelock Police Department, with the assistance of the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, the New Bern Police Department, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

NOTE: Under North Carolina Structured Sentencing law, a convicted criminal defendant must serve all of the minimum active sentence and may be required to serve up to the maximum sentence. Upon release at the conclusion of the prison sentence, a nine to twelve month period of post-release supervision by a probation officer is required.