Teenager pleads guilty, sentenced in murder of family friend


A St. Paul teenager pleaded guilty to killing a woman in a Bloomington hotel and was immediately sentenced to more than 18 years in prison, the Hennepin County attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Dequan Smith, who turned 18 years old about two months after the slaying, pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder of 39-year-old Jennifer Swaggert in a court hearing Monday. Smith also pleaded guilty to an attempted first-degree robbery, which occurred on a bus the day after the murder.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office prosecutor requested, and the judge agreed, that Smith receive 198 months for the murder and another 24 months for the attempted robbery and that they be served consecutively for a total of 222 months.

During his guilty plea, Smith admitted that on July 11, 2020, he and his mother attempted to force Swaggert to give them money to pay for a storage unit. Smith admitted he was going to rob her at gunpoint to get the money, but during the argument he pulled the trigger and the bullet struck Swaggert’s face, killing her.

Ten of Swaggert’s family members gave victim impact statements including her three children, the father of the children who she was about to marry, her mother, her sister, niece and cousins. They described Jennifer Swaggert as a loving mother, aunt and cousin who was selfless and kind and will be deeply missed.

After those statements, Smith apologized to Swaggert’s family and acknowledged she had helped out his family in the past.

Last week, Smith was certified to stand trial as an adult. His sentence will be served in adult prison. Smith’s mother, Trimeanna Williams, also was convicted of aiding her son after the murder. She is serving a sentence of 74 months in prison.