One Man in Custody in Connection with Murder of ABC Chicago Producer in Belize | NBC Chicago

One Man in Custody in Connection with Murder of ABC Chicago Producer in Belize

Police say the Guatemalan man entered the country illegally and though he has not been charged with the murder, he will face immigration charges regardless

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Investigators release more details about how Chicago journalist Anne Swaney died, and who else they plan to question in connection to her murder. NBC 5's Regina Waldroup reports. (Published Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016)

    New developments emerged Sunday in the murder of a producer for ABC7 Chicago whose body was found in Belize on Friday morning, authorities say.

    One man remains in custody in connection with the murder and Belizean police revealed Sunday that they plan to bring in two tour guides for questioning.

    A 24-year-old Guatemalan man who had entered Belize illegally was taken into custody Friday morning, and has not been charged with the murder, but is being interrogated by police. Authorities say he told police that he was on a fishing expedition in the area of the resort where 39-year-old Anne Swaney was staying.

    Swaney was the executive producer of online operations for abc7chicago.com.

    She was found dead after a daylong search with bruises on her neck and lacerations on either side of her head, Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu told NBC Chicago. Police believe she may have been sexually assaulted.

    Post-mortem reports show that Swaney was bleeding profusely, but there was no blood on the deck where her belongings were found, police said Sunday, which leads them to believe that the crime may have been committed somewhere else.

    Police are searching with a K9 unit today for any evidence, including blood, her cell phone, and her clothes. They say that there have not been any pings from her missing cell phone, which they think could be in the river where she was found. 

    A photo of the Mopan River, where Anne Swaney's body was found.
    Photo credit: Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu

    Swaney arrived Saturday alone for a seven-day vacation at Nabatunich Resort, Arzu said.

    Swaney went out to do yoga Thursday morning around 8 a.m. along the Mopan River near the resort, Arzu said. Hours later, a tour guide found her belongings along the river but no sign of her.

    Dogs were brought in to help search for Swaney Thursday night. Her scent was picked up near the river, though she was not located until the following day when she was found floating face-down in the river wearing only a bra Friday morning, authorities say.

    "We suspect that she may have been sexually violated,” Arzu said. “She had bruises around her neck that reveals that there might have been some strangulation or some sort of fight back.”

    ABC Chicago Producer Murdered in BelizeABC Chicago Producer Murdered in BelizeA producer for ABC7 Chicago was killed in Belize, police in the nation confirmed. NBC 5's Regina Waldroup reports. (Published Friday, Jan. 15, 2016)

    However, an autopsy performed by the Benque Viejo Police Department was unable to determine conclusively if she had been sexually assaulted. The cause of death was ruled to be asphyxia by compression of the neck, manual strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head and neck, which police believe was committed with a rock.

    DNA evidence was collected from Swaney's body, according to authorities. It was not semen, but is being analyzed to find a possible link to any persons of interest. 

    Police say the Guatemalan man has been giving them misleading information and conflicting statements. According to authorities, when he was taken into custody near the scene Friday morning, he did not have any fishing equipment, but he did have a knife, which is currently being analyzed. He is charged with immigration offenses and will be in court Monday morning. 

    "We will be pursuing an interview and investigation to for him to give account for himself and as well we will be relying on the results of the post mortem examination and the forensic evidence collected from the area," Arzu said of the man in custody on Saturday morning.

    Based on his interrogation, police believe he will greatly assist in the investigation, though the entire staff and tour guides will also continue to be questioned, Arzu added. He also said that the Benque Viejo Police Department is bringing in more detectives from other areas to work on the case, and they are warning tourists against being in remote areas alone. 

    Swaney's family members will not be traveling to Belize, but are arranging to have her body taken to the U.S. by no later than Wednesday.

    A photo of Anne Swaney's yoga mat.
    Photo credit: Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu

    A State Department official said in a statement: "We offer our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones on their loss. Our consular staff is providing all possible consular assistance."

    Swaney was an avid world traveler and lover of horses, friends said.

    "When she walked on the premises, it was like you knew Anne was here," said Carol Waynauskas of Sarah's Stables in Willow Springs, where Swaney spent much of her time with her horse Sequia.

    "Him and her made a great pair," said Waynauskas, referring to the horse. "He's gonna miss her."

    "A lot of people are terribly broken up about this," President and General Manager of ABC7 John H. Idler said. "She had that capacity to make everybody around here better. She demanded that from those around her. She mentored people throughout her career."

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