Person of Interest in Chicago News Producer's Belize Murder Sentenced to Prison for Illegally Entering Country | NBC Chicago

Person of Interest in Chicago News Producer's Belize Murder Sentenced to Prison for Illegally Entering Country

The 24-year-old Guatemalan man is accused of entering Belize illegally. He has been questioned but not charged in connection with the death of ABC7 Chicago producer Anne Swaney.

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    A "person of interest" being questioned in connection with the murder of Anne Swaney, a producer for ABC7 Chicago who was killed while vacationing in Belize, has been charged for illegally entering the country. Christian Farr reports. (Published Monday, Jan. 18, 2016)

    A "person of interest" being questioned in the death of an ABC7 Chicago producer who was killed while vacationing in Belize has been charged with an unrelated crime and sentenced to prison, authorities said.

    Belize Police Department spokesperson Raphael Martinez said a 24-year-old Guatemalan man was sentenced to six months in prison for illegal entry into Belize.

    "Since he was charged with illegal entry, I am sure the persons that in terviewed him could squeeze absolutely nothing in relation to the death of Anne from him, however, the investigation continues as police are following several leads," Martinez said, referring to Anne Swaney, the executive producer of online operations for abc7chicago.com. 

    As of Monday, he had not been charged in connection with Swaney's killing. She found dead Friday.

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

    The 24-year-old man had entered Belize illegally. He was taken into custody Friday morning and was being interrogated by police. He told police he was on a fishing expedition near the resort where 39-year-old Swaney was staying, according to authorities.

    Police said the Guatemalan man gave 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 appeared in court Monday morning. 

    Belizean police revealed Sunday they also planned to question two tour guides.

    Swaney arrived more than a week ago for a seven-day vacation at Nabatunich Resort, Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu told NBC Chicago. She was traveling alone. 

    Swaney was found dead after a daylong search with bruises on her neck and lacerations on either side of her head, Arzu said. Police believe she may have been sexually assaulted.

    "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.”

     

    Post-mortem reports show 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.

    She 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, authorities said.

    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.

    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 visitation will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Rollins Funeral Home. A private family graveside service will follow.

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

    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.

    In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for contributions to the Northland Therapeutic Riding Center and the Changing Leads Equine Rescue, both located in Missouri. 

    "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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