CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago woman was murdered while on vacation in Belize, police said.
Anne Swaney, 39, was reported missing on Thursday, and her body was found in a river on Friday. Police officials, citing an autopsy report, said Swaney had been strangled and also suffered blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
Swaney was executive producer of online operations for ABC 7 in Chicago.
Her friends said Swaney loved horses, travel, and good times; and seemed to be enjoying all three while vacationing at a rural resort in the Cayo District of western Belize.
When she failed to return to her cabin Thursday morning after going out to do yoga at a nearby river, the resort called police, according to Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu. Her personal belongings were found on a deck near the resort, and police brought in a K-9 unit to join the search. A scent led them to the river, but thes earch was called off due to darkness.
When the search resumed Friday morning, police found her half-naked body face-down in the river, Arzu said. She had bruises on her neck, and lacerations on both sides of her head, indicating she might have been strangled.
“That led us to believe that she was murdered,” he said. “We also suspect that she might have been sexually violated.”
Swaney’s death hit hard at ABC 7, where she was being remembered as a newsroom leader with a passion for getting it right.
“Anne was one of those folks, she made everybody around her better. She made everybody around her smile. She was a fierce advocate for getting things right, and a fierce advocate for this news business,” ABC 7 general manager John Idler said.
Swaney had many friends in the CBS 2 newsroom, reporter Brad Edwards among them.
“Northwestern grad, smart superstar alum, talented, big title, but everyone loved her. She was just effervescent,” he said.
Arzu said police do not consider the area around the resort to be dangerous, and believe at this time it likely was a random crime.
“We have not had any records in that particular area that our locals may have involved in any sort of crime within that area. We consider that area to be a peaceful area,” he said.
However, he did say the area is heavily trafficked by Guatemalans who enter the country illegally to sell illegal drugs or contraband.
“We will be looking at all leads, and we will be open in terms of our area of investigation, but as it is so far, we have no suspects,” Arzu said.
Authorities were awaiting the results of an autopsy conducted later Friday to determine the exact cause of Swaney’s death.
CBS 2 was told there is a nationwide tourist advisory in Belize; apparently, robbery, mugging, and rape are all on the rise in that country.