Authorities in the small English-speaking Central American country discovered the body of Anne Swaney, 39, face down in a river near a small horse farm she was staying at on her trip. A 1994 graduate of Platte County High School, she continues to be remembered for her caring nature, vibrant personality and groundbreaking journalism work.
A visitation is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23 at Rollins Funeral Home in Platte City with a private family burial to follow on Sunday.
“Anne Elizabeth had a very short life,” said Jack Swaney, Anne’s father and a 1963 Platte County graduate, in an interview with WLS — an ABC affiliate in Chicago. “She had a very full life. It hasn’t sunk in, what we’ve lost. But we’ve received an awful lot of calls that — no one loved her as much as I did — but a lot of people who care and they expressed that. We certainly appreciate it.”
Anne Swaney served as student council president in her senior year at Platte County and earned the title of salutatorian for her graduating class. She was active throughout her student life and participated in French Club, Forensics, Writer’s Inc. and Art Club while playing volleyball and basketball.
In addition, Swaney sang in concert choir, served as editor of the yearbook and was a member of the National Honor Society. She also earned the title of Platte County Fair Queen in 1994.
Swaney went on to graduate from Northwestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism in Chicago in 1998. She briefly worked for the ABC news affiliate in St. Joseph, Mo. before going on to work the past 16 years at WLS, becoming one of their first online product employees and most recently serving as executive producer of online operations at abc7chicago.com.
John H. Idler, president and general manager of ABC7, called Swaney a trailblazer for digital news space in an interview with CNN.
“Nothing surprised me, what she’s done, and I love her to pieces,” Jack Swaney said. The horrifying details of Swaney’s murder first became public on Friday, Jan. 15, and the story has made national news.
Traveling to Belize for a second time in two years, Swaney was staying at a horse farm in western Belize, the same location she had stayed at during her trip the previous year. Reports indicate that she was scheduled to go on a horseback ride on Thursday, Jan. 14 but there were more riders than horses.
Swaney volunteered to stay behind and went to a nearby area to do some yoga and did not return.
The owner of the small resort reported her missing that night, and her body was discovered the following day. The U.S. State Department confirmed her death and was scheduled to arrive in Belize on Monday to collect her personal belongings, according to reports.
There were bruises on Swaney’s neck and lacerations to her head, and the cause of death was determined to be strangulation.
The FBI has become involved in the investigation, and reports indicate that a Guatemalan fisherman had been detained and questioned. No charges have been filed in the case, and reports indicate that at this point the fisherman was nearby and could assist in the investigation.
The news of Swaney’s manner of death rocked her co-workers in Chicago, friends and family back home and many around the country.
“She was a light, a source of laughter and smiles, and a source of wisdom that’s really one of a kind,” said Rosie Powers, an ABC7 web producer who worked closely with Anne, in an interview with CNN.
According to those who knew her best, Swaney was an avid world traveler who loved her family, horseback riding and adventure. Her recent trips included Turkey, Greece, Costa Rica, London and a cattle drive in the western United States.
Just two years earlier, John Swaney — Jack and Georgeanne Swaney’s oldest child — died at age 39 of a heart condition. Anne Swaney is survived by her parents, Jack’s wife Ruth and her younger brother David Swaney, also a Platte County graduate.
When ABC7 asked Jack Swaney about his strength through this most recent family tragedy, he said, “I don’t have it. I’m not strong. I’m a mess.”
ANNE ELIZABETH SWANEY
Anne Elizabeth McComb Swaney died Jan. 14, 2016 in Cayo, Belize, from a random act of violence. Like all victims, she deserved better. She deserved the chance to take more trips, ride more horses, bike more places — live more life. But it was not to be.
Anne Elizabeth was born July 20, 1976 and graduated from Platte County High School in 1994. She participated in many activities including drama and journalism. She was editor of her high school yearbook. She graduated from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, in 1998. At Northwestern, she was a member of Pi Beta Phi. Anne Elizabeth recently celebrated 16 years of working at ABC-7 in Chicago as the executive producer of online operations. She loved her job and was good at it; she loved her city, too. A traveler and explorer, Anne Elizabeth’s love of adventure began when she was 11 years old and won a trip to Boston. She spent the rest of her life seeking new experiences, starting in college on a world tour with Semester at Sea. Among her excursions, she rode horses in Costa Rica, Scotland, Turkey and Greece, took part in a cattle drive through Utah’s Brice Canyon, rode her bike in Iowa’s RAGBRI, traveled to Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Austria.
Anne Elizabeth was preceded in death by her Tatman grandparents (George and Billie) and by her Swaney grandparents (Tom and Jerry). Her brother, John Tatman Swaney, died from a heart condition two years ago at age 39. Her beloved Uncle Evert (Asjes), also preceded her in death.
Anne Elizabeth is survived by her mother, Georgeanne Tatman Swaney, her father, Jack Williams Swaney and his wife Ruth (all of Platte City), a brother, David Robbins Swaney and his wife Lauren, and her maternal aunt, Susan Tatman Asjes (all of Kansas City), and many loving paternal aunts, uncles and cousins. She also is survived by a host of friends from all the glorious phases of her too-short life.
She was a reader, a writer, a great correspondent and a good and kind friend. She will be in our hearts forever. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Northland Therapeutic Riding Center (P.O. Box 1267, Kearney, MO 64060) or Changing Leads Equine Rescue (P.O. Box 901343, Kansas City, MO 64190).
A visitation will be held from 1-3 p.m. Jan. 23 from at the Rollins Funeral Home, 1106 Branch Street, Platte City, with a private family graveside service to follow.
Arrangements by Rollins Funeral Home, Platte City, 858-2129, www.rollinsfuneralhome.net.