The disappearance of Karen Swift on October 30, 2011 shook a community to its core, captured national attention, and triggered a search for the 44-year-old mother of four.
Here’s what Karen Swift’s son, Preston Swift, had to say about the search when it was in its infant-stages back on November 2, 2011.
“We are very concerned and very worried and we want her to come home safe,” Preston Swift pleaded.
The search ended a month later on December 10, 2011, when Swift’s body was found in a rural cemetery in Dyer County. It was just a few miles away from her home, and not far from where Swift’s SUV was discovered, broken down on the side of the road.
From the outset Dyer Co. Sheriff Jeff Box focused on finding Swift’s killer. On Nov. 2, 2011, three days after Swift went missing, he told the public where he was directing his attention.
“We’re looking at every person that we have of interest or that’s connected with her in any way very carefully to not overlook anything,” Sheriff Box said.
One of those connected was the man Karen Swift was in the middle of divorcing when she went missing, David Swift. However, David Swift was never a suspect, and investigators have yet to reveal how she died.
Over the years, authorities have hinted at the emergence of new evidence or a “person of interest”, but now, after more than five years, no one has ever been named publicly.
Folks like Tommy Benham, who had met Karen Swift at the local YMCA, are losing hope that whoever killed Swift will be brought to justice.
“As time goes by do you think there’s less likelihood that this is going to be solved?” I asked Benham.
“Oh yeah, sure, if they don’t catch them in the first 48 hours, like they say,” Benham responded.
Some in Dyer County, such as Walter Livingston, frankly is not surprised.
“Doesn’t surprise me none,” Livingston said. “There’s a lot of unsolved murders around here. Haven’t been solved yet. Some 10-15 years old.”
Others fear, especially since the Swift family moved from Dyersburg, Karen Swift is now too distant a memory.
“Do you think she’s been forgotten?” I asked Houston Newby.
“Yes, I really do,” Newby told me. “It was a big deal for 2 or 3 years.”
Now, though, the community is hearing less-and-less about the case, leading them to believe it has gone cold. However, Sheriff Box insists it has not gone cold and that a special investigator receives tips and finds new evidence from time-to-time.
But after a half-a-decade, people in this community can’t help but wonder if Karen Swift will ever get justice. Benham can’t believe there still hasn’t been an arrest.
“Somebody should have been questioned or found something,” Benham said. “Five years? Someone should know something.”
Christina Robinson calls Dyersburg home and is concerned the impact the case is having on the town.
“It kind of affects you, because it’s pretty much been swept under the rug and now nobody seems to be trying to come forward to say anything,” Robinson said.
On October 30, 2016, another anniversary came and went, and Karen Swift’s killer continues to elude investigators. A fact that does not elude people around here, and the impact of her murder looms.
“Where they did find her body, I actually go up there and ride four-wheelers,” Newby said. “It kind of bothers me. We don’t ride up there anymore, because of that situation.”
As-much-as the Swift family, the community is looking forward to law enforcement giving them some answers soon. However, people in Dyer County are frustrated that people who may have information are not coming forward.
“Somebody knows something and they’re just not saying it and it makes you sad,” Robinson said.
The lack of answers has this community still seeking closure in one of west Tennessee’s highest-profile homicides in memory.