An Illinois man remains in jail tonight, accused of a heinous crime against his own mother.
He’s said to have set fire to their Crossville home, then pushed her into the flames.
The White County Sheriff says Clayton Swanner’s mother ran down the street for help, banging on a neighbor’s door while covered in burns.
“We deal with a lot of domestic issues, but to do this is just a horrible thing. A horrible, horrible thing,” said Sheriff Doug Maier. “We’ve had several big oilfield explosions. I’ve seen people burned. But it was pretty drastic. It’s just a horrible thing.”
Cathy Brandenstein remains in the hospital, recovering from burns that left her in critical condition.
“She advised me that the situation was that her son had set the house on fire. They’d had some type of disagreement. And in the course of that he had grabbed her and forced her down into the fire,” the sheriff added.
Flames from the burning carpet quickly spread to a piece of Cathy’s clothing, which she threw on the porch as she ran from the flames.
“She was dressed in, I think, some type of robe that caught on fire, which probably created the issue of why she was so severely burned,” Sheriff Meier explained.
One of Cathy’s neighbors called for help, and when deputies arrived they found her son–35 year old Clayton Andrew Swanner, who lives there with her–walking back to the scene where first responders were still working.
“Much later, he came walking down the roadway, and we did at that point take him into custody and place him under arrest at that point,” Sheriff Meier recalled.
The sheriff added that Swanner is no stranger to them.
A review of White County records shows Swanner has been in and out of court on civil and criminal matters since 2002, mainly for misdemeanors: traffic violations, DUI, and trespassing.
While Swanner is facing charges of aggravated battery, but he may face more indictments from the prosecutor, including up to attempted murder.
Neighbors who have known Swanner all their lives believe he may be suffering from mental illness.
“When something happens me and my dad usually say he’s off his meds,” said Mechelle Ashford, who lives on the other side of Swanner.
And while they’re shocked to find out that something like this could happen next door, they’re not surprised.
“Things have gotten pretty bad over the years. We all knew this was coming,” Ashford said.
Swanner is currently in the White County jail, being held without bond.
He’s expected in court sometime next week.