Evidence shows that 6-year-old Faye Swetlik was strangled to death by her neighbor within hours of being abducted from her front yard in South Carolina last week, authorities revealed Tuesday.
Police said Coty Scott Taylor, a 30-year-old neighbor who killed himself inside his home last week, was the “sole perpetrator” behind Swetlik’s tragic slaying on Feb. 10.
Taylor was found dead in his South Carolina home on Feb. 13, which is about 100 to 150 feet away from the Swetlik residence, just minutes after the first-grader’s body was discovered in a nearby wooded area after an exhaustive three-day search around their Churchill Heights neighborhood.
Police said Tuesday her body had been moved to the wooded area between her home and a nearby auto-body shop shortly before she was discovered.
The Lexington County Coroner’s Office confirmed the 6-year-old, who was last seen by her family playing in her front yard around 3:45 p.m., died from asphyxiation a few hours after she was abducted. An autopsy showed that Taylor died by suicide.
“This was not just an investigation or case for us. Faye Swetlik quickly grabbed all of our hearts. This case will remain very personal for each of us. Faye will never be forgotten. There are no words that can adequately convey sorrow to her family,” Cayce Public Safety Sgt. Evan Antley said during a press conference.
Cayce Department of Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said investigators interviewed Taylor last Wednesday, and he gave authorities consent to look through his home, but they didn’t find anything linking him to the case at the time.
Authorities previously said Taylor, who had no criminal history and was not known to law enforcement, was not considered a friend of Swetlik’s family.
The next day, however, police found a polka-dot boot the 6-year-old was wearing at the time of her disappearance and a soup ladle with fresh dirt on it in Taylor’s trash can.
Around the same time officers found Swetlik’s body on Thursday morning behind the neighborhood’s townhomes, other deputies were responding to reports of a “man bleeding on the back patio” of a nearby house, Snellgrove said. When officers arrived, Taylor was found dead.
Snellgrove added that DNA collected from both crime scenes “connected the unknown pieces of this horrific crime” and said video surveillance footage showed Taylor “doing some suspicious things.” Authorities declined on Tuesday to provide details on the video.
“The loss of Faye Marie Swetlik will never leave our thoughts or minds. I hope today, we can start to process this horrific crime and grieve the loss of this precious life,” Antley said.
The city of Cayce is holding a vigil for the first-grader on Tuesday at city hall, and a funeral will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce, according to an online obituary.