Guilty verdict, life sentence for convicted child molester

A Panama City man was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison Thursday after a jury convicted him of Lewd & Lascivious Molestation on a child, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

A jury found Darrel Fred Swearingen, 48, guilty after 17 minutes of deliberation. Circuit Court Judge Tim Register then imposed the life sentence.

Prosecutors Frank Sullivan and Jae Hee Kim proved that Swearingen committed the offense against the victim in 2010 when he was left alone with her. Testimony showed that the victim reported the molestation to an adult family member, who did not report it to authorities.

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The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center was made aware of the allegations in 2020 and began an investigation. Bay County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Christian Williams, the case agent, took statements from both the victim and the defendant. He arrested the defendant in January, 2021.

During the trial, testimony from the victim was consistent with what she had previously disclosed to family and law enforcement. Her sister also testified for the State.

The defendant took the stand and Sullivan noted inconsistencies in his initial statement to law enforcement and his trial testimony. It was also disclosed that the defendant was a 6-time convicted felon and was previously convicted of giving false information to law enforcement.

Basford thanked both the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and GCCAC for their work on the case, and Sullivan for his strong presentation of it to jurors.

For additional information, contact Mike Cazalas at, or call 850-381-7454.