Metro-East News

He lost at dice and took a life. Now he’s going to prison for 25 years.

Winning a dice game ultimately cost a Centreville man his life earlier this year.

One of the two men accused of murder in the March 9 shooting death of 25-year-old DeAngelo Oliver pleaded guilty to his role in the incident during a hearing Wednesday in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Sammie Swift, 22, of East St. Louis, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder. As part of a plea agreement, Smith was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Judge Robert Haida.

When asked by Haida why he was pleading guilty to the charge, Smith bowed his head and said, “It’s hurting me inside.” He later turned to members of Oliver’s family who were in court and apologized to them.

“I know what I did was wrong,” Swift said before attempting to wipe away tears. “I am sorry for what I did.”

Swift and Tommy Pirtle, 18, of East St. Louis, were charged with first-degree murder by St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly soon after the shooting, which took place at Oliver’s residence at 4763 Piggot Ave.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Fuld said that Oliver and Pirtle were with each other earlier in the day on March 9 and Oliver won money while playing dice with Pirtle. Fuld said Pirtle was upset after losing money. Fuld said Pirtle and Swift were together at a relative’s of Pirtle’s who lived near Oliver. Fuld said Swift came up with an idea to rob Oliver.

Fuld said Swift and Pirtle went to Oliver’s residence and got into an altercation with him inside the residence. Fuld said Oliver was shot, left out the front door and fell, dying in front of the residence at approximately 8:35 p.m. Illinois State Police investigators said at the time of the shooting that Oliver had been shot multiple times.

Fuld said Swift had admitted to going into the residence with Pirtle and getting into an altercation with Oliver. Fuld said Swift admitted to punching Oliver and leaving the scene out the back door.

Oliver left behind four children, three sons and one girl. Several members of his family, including his mother, attended Wednesday’s hearing.

“It is justice served,” said family spokesman Tony Howard, who is Oliver’s uncle. “This is a painful time for our family. There are two losses here. We lost our nephew, our son, our brother and a father. Now this young man (Swift) is going to lose 25 years of his life. You can’t get any of that back.”

Howard said his family has forgiven Swift, but is still hurting.

“No matter if it’s over a dice game or if it’s over multimillions (sic) of dollars, no one has the right to take someone else’s life,” Howard said. “I wish these young people would think first and cool down before they decide to take any action.”

Before the plea deal, Swift faced between 40 and 80 years in prison because of a gun enhancement that added 20 years to each end of the range of punishment. The St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office on Wednesday filed new information in the case that said Swift committed first-degree murder “by using a dangerous weapon.” By using that language, it took away the extra time Swift faced with the gun enhancement to the charge.

Swift’s 25-year sentence was on the lower end of the range of 20 to 60 years. He had no previous felony convictions on his record. His case was set to go to trial on Jan. 3.

Pirtle has pleaded not guilty to his charge. His next scheduled court date is a Jan. 31 status conference. His trial has been set for March 13. He is being held in the St. Clair County Jail on $750,000 bail.

Don O’Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND