FBI Investigates Murder of American Journalist in Belize

ABC7 Chicago Executive Producer Anne Elizabeth Swaney, 39, came to Belize on a one-week dream vacation. She will be going home in a body bag.

This week investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation processed the scene where Swaney was last seen alive…a wooden deck on the banks of the Mopan River at the Nabitunich Resort in San Jose Succotz. Swaney’s body was discovered at 8:15 a.m. last Friday, face-down in the rushing river, 300 metres from the deck. She had been choked to death and beaten in the head. The body was nude, except for a bra.
Swaney had visited the resort and horse ranch last year and loved it so much, she returned. She has been described by her work colleagues as a vibrant, vivid person, and Nabitunich owner, Santiago Juan told the Reporter that she was a pleasure to be around. Nobody but her killer or killers could have predicted that she would die that morning, which started like any other during her stay there.

Swaney was an avid horsewoman, and Juan says that was her plan for Thursday, January 14th – “before she goes riding she has breakfast then she does her stretches. As normal she went down to the yoga platform and went down to do her stretches, her yoga. And that’s the last time she was seen alive, unfortunately.”

Swaney left for the deck, about a quarter-mile from her stone cabin, at about 8:00 a.m. It is believed that she was dead by 9:00 a.m. A ranch-hand passed by the deck a little after that and she was nowhere to be seen – just her boots, clothing, bug spray, a water bottle, a bag and her yoga mat lying on the deck. The alarm was raised by Juan at around 3:00 p.m. when Swaney did not return and they could not find her. He called in the police – “They brought out their team and their dogs. As you know in this part of the world, it gets dark pretty early. By 6:00 it is already dark. They continued the search till about 10:00 at night more or less. I don’t recall the exact time. Then they called off the search and they came back very early in the morning, at which time they found the body of Mrs. Swaney,” he said.

A Guatemalan fisherman found in the area was detained for questioning, but police have been unable to link him to the murder. He has since been charged for entering the country illegally, but is not believed to be the murderer. Law enforcement officials from the Benque Viejo Police Department have also questioned Juan and the employees at Nabitunich, and foreign media outlets have been reporting all week that there is a person of interest police are looking at. Local authorities have disputed that saying that there is no person of interest being sought.

There is speculation that Swaney was sexually violated because the body was found partially nude. An autopsy conducted by Dr. Leyden Ken has been inconclusive in that regard, and swabs have been taken for forensic analysis.

The investigation has stalled at this point, despite the presence of investigators from the US. At this point, police would tell us only that drops of blood were found close to the deck, but they have been unable to find any link between Swaney and any of the persons questioned so far. They feel it is likely that two persons passing by just happened on the American woman and took advantage of an opportunity.

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