The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

October 23, 2013

The untimely death of Cecil Birge

ATHENS —

Editor's note: This story is the first in a series of stories about the 2001 death of Cecil Birge in Limestone County and the capital murder case and sentencing that followed. The background in this story is based on News Courier coverage of Kathy Birge's 2003 trial by former reporter Rebekah Davis

When Cecil Birge died at his home in eastern Limestone County in 2001, authorities initially believed the 54-year-old man had suffered a fatal heart attack.

On May 5 of that year, Limestone County Coroner Mike West found Cecil on the floor of the Dove Drive home he shared with his wife, Kathy. He ruled the death natural, in part, because Kathy had said her husband complained of chest pain and shortness of breath in the days before his death. Kathy had also told West she did not believe her husband was taking any medications and that he had refused to see a doctor about his heart problems.

Happy couple?

By 2001, the Birges had been together since 1998 but married only five months. Cecil was working at Chrysler and the couple also ran a diet clinic together called Madison Med-Slim. Upon Cecil's death, the grieving widow collected $108,000 in life insurance and deferred pay from his employer.

But soon after, witnesses would come forward and investigators would unearth information that would make suspect the death of Cecil Birge.

A witness told authorities that on the day before Cecil died, Kathy changed his will. Two days before Cecil died, Kathy changed the beneficiary of her husband's deferred pay account from his daughter, Michelle Swift, to herself. Three days before Cecil died, Kathy prearranged her husband’s funeral and cremation.

Family fracture

Early on, Cecil's daughter Michelle, of Anderson, Ind., conveyed to authorities her suspicions about her father's death. She contested her father's last will and testament. And, when Kathy resisted an autopsy, Swift obtained a court order preventing her from having the body cremated. Michelle also submitted a different version of her father’s will.

Text Only
Local News
Poll

A recent national telephone survey found 75 percent of respondents believe the sale and use of pot will eventually be legal nationwide. Do you think marijuana should be legal in Alabama?

Yes
No
No, but I don’t think pot smokers should go to jail
Yes, but only for medical use
Yes, but only for personal adult use
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee