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Stephanie Swearingen (23) was strangled to death by her husband and buried in an existing grave
Published: Oct 24, 2006 @ 9:00 AM
Stephanie Swearingen (23)
Oct 14, 2006
Cause of Death:
Strangled by husband
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Bail was set at $1 million Thursday for a 25-year-old Fort Hood sergeant charged in connection with his wife's death.
Staff Sgt. Tye Van Swearingen of the 1st Cavalry Division was arraigned Thursday afternoon by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Bill Cooke on a charge of murder in connection with the death of Stephanie Swearingen, 23. Her body was discovered at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday by Killeen police in an existing grave in the Live Oak Cemetery in Youngsport, south of Killeen, the judge said.
On Sunday, Swearingen reported to Killeen police that his wife had not returned since she had left their residence following an argument on Saturday. The residence is in the 3300 block of Winfield Drive. Sgt. Van Swearingen told police his wife left in a silver Nissan Sentra, said Carroll Smith, the Killeen police spokeswoman.
According to the arrest affidavit, the vehicle was located Tuesday in Waco, parked behind a church. The vehicle's windows were down and two sets of keys were recovered. Waco police investigators also noted a small amount of blood in the trunk.
On Wednesday, Swearingen allegedly gave Killeen investigators a voluntary statement, in which he admitted to strangling his wife after an argument in their Killeen home. The investigator said Swearingen then said, "I grabbed tightly around her neck and started strangling her. I had my hands around her neck."
Swearingen also told police he was not sure if she was dead or not, but he said she was bluish in color and had a little bit of blood coming from her nose, the affidavit states.
The investigator said the suspect said he threw his wife's body in a bathtub partially filled with water and later placed her in the trunk of her car. The following evening, Swearingen told police, he buried his wife in an existing grave at the Live Oak Cemetery.
He later directed Killeen police to the gravesite, the affidavit said. Reports indicate Swearingen told police that he buried his wife with a blanket and a leopard print dress, which police found. He also said he drove his wife's car to Waco and took it through a car wash with the windows down before abandoning the vehicle.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Judge Cooke had not received a preliminary autopsy from the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
Linda Ridley, a next-door neighbor, said she is not feeling too comfortable knowing what she has learned since having spoken to Tye Swearingen on Monday.
Ridley said Swearingen talked told her that his wife was missing, and that it was unlike her to be gone so long.
"He said they fought that Saturday, and he told her to leave before he called the police," said Ridley, who last saw Stephanie Swearingen four days prior to her death.
"He said they fought because she wanted to go to a party," Ridley said. "I asked him if he had talked to the people at the party to see if she showed up, and he said they said she never showed up.
"Then I said, I hate to ask you this, but did she have a boyfriend?' And he said, yes, but the boyfriend has another girlfriend,'" the neighbor said.
Ridley said she didn't understand what he meant, when Swearingen said "they" were trying to get in touch with him.
"He told me that his mother-in-law believed he had done something to her, and he said, That's crazy. Why would I do something like that when I'm the one looking for her?'
"I just told him to let me know if he needs anything, and that I will pray for him."
Pausing, Ridley said. "This is crazy ... right next door. This is freaking me out."
1st Cavalry Division sergeant charged in slaying of wife
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