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R.I. widower defends self in wrongful death lawsuit

PROVIDENCE -- A former Jamestown council member who was sued after his wife died while scuba diving in the Caribbean defended himself in court for the first time yesterday.

David Swain was not represented by a lawyer and gave his own opening statement at the trial, asking jurors to keep an open mind. He said he would not testify.

It was the first time Swain presented any defense in the trial. He had been subpoenaed to appear in court this week.

Swain's wife, Shelley Tyre, died in 1999 while scuba diving off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Authorities ruled the death an accident, and no criminal charges were filed. Tyre's family sued, however, saying Swain had something to do with her death.

Tyre's father, Richard, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2002. The family accuses Swain of killing Tyre, a school administrator, for money. Swain has countersued for defamation.

Yesterday, Swain told jurors the Tyres' story was impossible. ''It's just not true," he said.

He said that as a parent, he knew how it might feel to lose a daughter. He said he wanted to call his 30-year-old daughter, Jennifer Swain, to take the witness stand, but Superior Court Judge Patricia Hurst said Jennifer Swain was not introduced as a witness at a pretrial conference so she would have to consider it.

Swain cited the contributions he has made to the community as a volunteer emergency medical technician and councilman for many years, saying the Tyres have neglected to mention them while trying to dig up sordid details of his past.

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