Man Accused of Murdering Husband, Staging Crime Scene, Raised Thousands Before Arrest
A Florida man who mourned his dead husband and subsequently raised thousands of dollars on GoFundMe was arrested on murder and evidence-tampering charges last Friday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced.
55-year-old Herbert Swilley was taken into custody in connection to the death of his husband, Timothy Smith, 59, whose body was discovered earlier this year inside an Ocala, Florida, apartment the couple maintained together, the police said.
According to police, responding officers conducted a welfare check at the apartment on March 25 after Smith did not show up to work the day prior.
Inside, the responding deputies found the 59-year-old already dead with “a dark ligature mark on his neck” and signs of “blunt-force trauma,” and authorities launched a homicide investigation.
Forensic investigators found that Smith had been dosed with a large amount of diphenhydramine, a drug commonly retailed as Benadryl, 30 times the amount than the normal dosage, police said.
Police allege that Swilley killed Smith at their home by choking him to death and fracturing his cervical spine, then drove his body to the apartment the couple maintained nearby before attempting to destroy evidence and staging a fake crime scene.
Next, police say, Swilley drove to a landfill where he dropped off what they believe to be two carpets after allegedly erasing Ring camera video footage from that night.
In August, sheriffs announced that Swilley was a suspect in Smith’s death, saying his attorney had told officers he would only cooperate with the investigation if he was provided with immunity from prosecution.
“Initially, Swilley pretended to be cooperative with law enforcement and provided them with a preliminary statement but the investigation revealed that many of the things Swilley told investigators were false, self-serving, or contradicted by other evidence,” police said.
According to NBC affiliate WFLA, Swilley had raised more than $2,200 on GoFundMe in April for Smith’s memorial.
Swilley’s daughter was also named a person of interest in the investigation and declined to speak with police after giving her initial statement, police said.
In August, when the Marion County Sheriff’s Office released an update naming Swilley a suspect in the investigation, Swilley published a post on Facebook the same day, honoring his late husband and celebrating their anniversary.
“It would have been 8 years we’ve been married. To be honest, I miss you every day and wish you were here Life isn’t the same without you,” Swilley wrote. “I miss your smile and your loving spirit. To let you know, it’s a very hard day. Because I know we would have had a great celebration.”
According to police, investigators learned that Smith had suffered domestic abuse in his relationship with Swilley and was planning to relocate to another country after being close to securing a new job there.
Authorities also said that Swilley was listed as a beneficiary of Smith’s life insurance policies, which totaled $333,000.
Court records reviewed by HuffPost show that Swilley was arrested on charges of murder in the first degree and tampering with evidence and is currently being held without bond.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.