Faye Marie Swetlik, the 6-year-old child who was found dead three days after vanishing from her front yard in Cayce, South Carolina, died from asphyxiation.
Faye disappeared on February 10, 2020, prompting a thorough search of her Churchill Heights neighborhood. Officials discovered her body in a wooded area near her home on February 13. Minutes after that tragic discovery, investigators found her neighbor, Coty Taylor, dead in his apartment.
Police now say they believe Coty Taylor kidnapped and murdered Faye Swetlik. The coroner says Taylor took his own life.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Coroner: Faye Swetlik Was Killed Shortly After She Was Abducted
Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher said at a press conference Tuesday that Faye Marie Swetlik died from asphyxiation. She explained that based on preliminary autopsy results, Faye was killed soon after she was abducted.
Fisher said Faye was murdered in a different location from where her body was discovered. The coroner added a message to Faye’s parents: “My heart, like so many others, breaks for you … No parent should ever have to know such pain.”
Fisher added they would not release further details about the condition of Faye’s body when she was found on February 13 out of respect for her family and because the case remains an open investigation.
Fisher and Cayce Department of Public Safety director Byron Snellgrove praised community members for the support shown to Faye’s family, which included providing meals.
Faye would have turned 7 years old on June 13, 2020.
2. Police: Coty Taylor Abducted & Killed Faye Marie Swetlik Before Committing Suicide
Coty Taylor took his own life, officials said. The Lexington County coroner said Taylor died from “an incised wound to the neck. The manner was determined to have been suicide.”
Cayce Department of Public Safety director Byron Snellgrove said investigators now believe Taylor abducted and killed Faye Swetlik. They also believe Taylor acted alone. Snellgrove said Taylor had a roommate, but they believe the roommate was unaware of what had happened and was not around very much.
Snellgrove explained that on February 13, investigators found evidence in Taylor’s trash can that linked him to the little girl. They found a child’s polka dot rainboot, along with a soup ladle that had freshly dug dirt on it.
After finding Faye’s body in the wooded area that morning, officers then found Taylor dead at his townhouse apartment. Snellgrove said DNA collected from both scenes “connected the unknown pieces of this horrific crime.” Police also confirmed that video surveillance footage obtained by investigators showed Taylor “doing some suspicious things.” Police did not elaborate on what the video showed.
Police said the evidence suggests Taylor moved Faye’s body into the wooded area at night. Investigators said Faye’s body was not there for very long before she was found.
3. Officers Escorted Faye Swetlik’s Body Back Home to Lexington County & Memorials Were Held In Her Honor
After the autopsy was completed on February 15, Faye Swetlik’s body was returned to Lexington County accompanied by a police escort. Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher wrote on Facebook the night before, “My heart goes out to Charleston for bringing this baby girl home with dignity!!!” Officers with the Cayce Department of Public Safety also participated in the procession.
In Cayce, memorials for Faye grew massive. Well-wishers left balloons, flowers and stuffed animals at a memorial in her Churchill Heights neighborhood and outside of her elementary school. WLTX-TV reported that Faye’s family is donating the stuffed animals to a local children’s hospital.
The Caughman-Harman Funeral Home announced that all of the expenses for the funeral would be covered, at no charge to the family. A memorial service for Faye is scheduled for Friday, February 21, at Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce. It begins at 7 p.m. Mourners are asked to wear bright colors to the service. Faye’s favorite colors were purple and pink.
A candlelight vigil was also scheduled for February 18 at Cayce City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
4. Faye Swetlik Disappeared About an Hour After She Arrived Home On the School Bus
Faye Marie Swetlik was last seen alive on February 10, 2020. She was a first-grader at Springdale Elementary and rode the bus home. Surveillance footage from the bus showed Faye talking to the driver before getting off at her stop. The faces of the other people on the bus were blurred out.
The Cayce Department of Public Safety said Faye’s mother, Selena Collins, greeted her daughter at the bus stop and they walked back to their apartment, which was located a few feet away. A neighbor, who was waiting at the bus stop for her son, told WIS-TV the children arrived on the bus at 2:50 p.m.
Collins told the police her daughter came inside to get a snack after school. At some point, Faye decided to go outside to play. Collins realized her daughter was no longer in the yard at 3:45 p.m. It’s unclear how long Faye was outside before disappearing.
Faye’s mother called 911 at 5 p.m. after failing to find her daughter herself. In the call, which can be heard here, Collins sounds on the verge of tears and like she is struggling to breathe.
5. Evidence In a Trash Can Outside Coty Taylor’s Home Led Police to Faye Swetlik’s Body
Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, conducted thorough searches of the Churchill Heights neighborhood and surrounding areas. An Amber Alert was never issued because police said they did not have evidence to suggest Faye Swetlik had been abducted. They checked inside of homes, stopped drivers as they traveled in and out of the subdivision and looked in trash cans and landfills.
Coty Taylor’s home was one of the buildings officers went into during the three-day search for Faye. His townhouse apartment, at 602 Picaddily Square, is located only yards away from Faye’s home at 16 Londonderry Lane.
Cayce DPS said they spoke with Taylor during the search and were inside his apartment. They said he was “cooperative” with investigators and that officers found no evidence of Faye inside the home. That interaction with police occurred on Wednesday, February 12, a day before the girl’s body was located. Police believe she had already been killed. Police described Taylor as “merely a neighbor” and said he did not have any relationship with Faye or her mother.
On February 13, officers followed a garbage truck in order to more thoroughly search for clues from trash cans. It was during this search they discovered evidence from the trash can that belonged to 602 Picaddily Square. Police did not immediately disclose what the evidence was but said it was an object that would have been listed on the missing person flyer. The flyer detailed the clothing Faye had been wearing on the day she disappeared. Police have since released that it was a polka-dot boot.
The discovery of this piece of evidence led police back to a wooded area near Taylor’s and Faye’s homes that they had searched previously. They found Faye’s body around 10 a.m., and police later said it was clear the child had not been in the area for very long. Police did not specify whether she had been buried or discuss her manner of death, but it was classified as a homicide. Soon after, police found Coty Taylor dead inside his home.