Loved ones react to news of Karen Swift’s death

Published: Dec. 12, 2011 at 6:29 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2011 at 9:52 AM CST
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Karen Swift
Karen Swift

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) – Residents across Region 8 and the Mid South Monday experienced sadness at the news Karen Swift, a mother of four children in Dyer County, Tennessee, was found dead near her home. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a body was found in rural Dyer County Saturday afternoon. Using dental records, the medical examiner's office in Memphis was able to identify the body as Swift's.

Monday, family members traveled to Dyersburg to discuss the case with police, according to Janet Ross. Ross said she graduated high school at Walnut Ridge with Swift and was her friend.

"I felt like it was coming because I know Karen would never be separated from her children voluntarily, but then still you have that tiny bit of hope in the back of your mind until it's actually confirmed," said Ross.

Two days after the discovery of a decomposed body in a rural area, Dyer County police ruled the missing woman's death as a homicide. Click here to read more about the case.

Ross said she believes someone murdered her friend.

"I definitely don't think Karen wandered away from her vehicle three miles down the road and stumbled into some weeds and died," said Ross. "There is some sense of closure just because we finally found her, but we want to know. Her mother told me last night, she said okay, we found my daughter, now I want to know who did this to my baby."

Ross said the last six weeks have been a living nightmare. She held a candle light vigil at the Walnut Ridge High School Football Field along with other friends to raise awareness of Swift's disappearance.

"Growing up, she was always athletic and she was still athletic. She's a pretty private person. When you were in Karen's inner circle, she really trusted you," said Ross. "In high school, she was voted to be teachers' pest and she earned it, but it was all in good spirit."

"Since she had her first child, (I've) just really respected her as a mother. She's just one of those mothers that everything was about her children," said Ross.

Swift went missing shortly after a Halloween party in late October. Since her disappearance, search crews have looked over hundreds of miles of land and water in Dyer County and surrounding areas. Days after her disappearance, Swift's vehicle was found near her home with split tires.

"I just want to know who it was and I want them prosecuted," said Ross.

During the interview with Region 8 News, Ross recalled the last time she could have seen Swift.

"She and I were both at a concert in Memphis in September and we were texting each other during the concert. I'll always regret that we didn't make a point to meet up in the lobby," said Ross. "I was standing up trying to find her in this sea of people, but she texted me, I see you. I'm coming to you, and in just a second, the lights went down and she said never mind."

Ross, who is also a mother, said the Swift case has changed the way she looks at family.

"Last night when her mother called, I made it through the telephone call (without crying), but as soon as I hung up, I just broke loose and my husband had gone to bed but he wasn't asleep. I just went straight to the bed room and just laid down with him and cried it out," said Ross. "About an hour later after I had calmed down, he (Ross' son) just came into the living room and hugged me and said I love you momma. I know he's thinking about her kids and what it would be like if it was me."

"It makes me appreciate my family maybe a little bit more to not take it for granted so much. At Thanksgiving, we knew she was missing, but that's all we knew. It was different because I knew there was an empty place at her family's table and nothing but questions," said Ross. "I can't imagine my son having to deal with this. Losing your mother and losing her in this way."

Ross said an account has been set up to assist the family with funeral expenses. If you're interested in donating, you can do so at any Iberia Bank location in northeast Arkansas. Ross said the account is in the name, "Janet L. Ross for the benefit of Karen Johnson Swift." 100% of the money will go to the family.

"When you lose someone you love to a senseless act of violence, it's a totally different kind of grief," said Ross.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.