Compton slaying suspect closely connected to victim, to appear in court

By Heather Hope

April 5, 2010

Marcell Bulliner, Sr. said when his 23-year-old son moved out his house last November into an apartment with 51-year-old Larry Wayne Swim, who was renting out a room in West Los Angeles, he didn’t think too much of it. He didn’t know anything about Swim, but felt his son would be in good care since Swim was much older.

Two months later, Bulliner got the worst news that his son, Marcell Stephen Bulliner, Jr. was stabbed multiple times to death on the night of Jan. 28, 2010. It took place on East 120th Street in Compton, a place where Bulliner said his son had no friends or relatives in the area.

For weeks, Bulliner and his family were left mystified as to how the former Universal Studios employee and aspiring rapper ended up on the wrong street at 9:30 at night. He had a 4-year-old daughter, got an associate business degree from Chase College and went back to his dad’s house every Tuesday to play dominoes.

“My son was my best friend,” Bulliner said. “He was just about to blossom.”

The Bulliner family held the funeral on the day that would’ve been Bulliner, Jr.’s 24th birthday. They set up a memorial on the street where he died and went there each night to light candles and try to pick up clues. They talked to residents in the Willowbrook neighborhood, but often got little to no information.

“It’s a gang area,” said Sgt. Barry Hall of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. “So it’s understanding that people in the area are more reluctant to come forth because they fear for their own safety.”

“It happened in front of a big apartment building with a lot of windows, I know somebody had to see something,” said April Barnes, Bulliner’s cousin.

Hall said Bulliner was found in his car with the door open, the lights on and had several stab wounds on his chest and face.

Bulliner’s father said his son was not gang affiliated and did not lead a life of crime.

“Marcell never brought any policemen or trouble to my door,” Bulliner said. “He was a good kid,”

He said witnesses told him that two men attacked his son that night after dropping off a friend, but he later learned that Bulliner’s attacker was much closer to home.

When he retrieved Bulliner’s items from his apartment days after his death, he and his family noticed something strange about his roommate. Bulliner said it took Swim a long time to come to the door before he let the family in. He was short with them and contradictory in his statements. Bulliner said he originally told them that Bulliner, Jr. didn’t have any belongings left at the apartment, and then minutes later, handed him a backpack and wallet.

“He tried to rush us out and seemed really shaky around us,” said Sheila Hawkes, Bulliner’s aunt.

It wasn’t until Bulliner, Jr.’s friend told the police that Swim’s mother lived in the apartment building directly behind the scene of the crime that family members began to understand why Swim was acting nervously that day.

“We just thought that he was high, we didn’t know he was covering something up,” Hawkes said.

Hall said he looked through surveillance video from a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus stop near 120th street, which showed Swim boarding the bus with Bulliner’s backpack, and it had blood on it.

Family also found it unusual that Swim’s bus pass was inside Bulliner’s wallet.

Police arrested Swim on March 12, 2010 and charged him with murder, robbery and lying in wait.

Bulliner said he was totally unaware of Swim’s background.

Swim’s criminal history included being convicted of burglary, domestic battery and assault, grand theft and drug possession.

Hall said Swim denied killing Bulliner and didn’t learn of a motive. He is currently held in the North County Correctional Facility, has bail set at $2 million dollars, and his next appearance in the Compton Courthouse will be April 20, 2010.

Bulliner said he is at peace and yet startled to now know the truth about who his son used to live with.

“How could he just look at someone’s family in the face like that and lie? That is something we’ll all have to live with,” Bulliner said.