COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Investigators found a man dead inside his South Carolina home shortly after finding an item from a missing 6-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood inside his trash can, authorities said.
Three days after Faye Marie Swetlik's mother frantically called 911 to report her daughter's disappearance from their front yard in Cayce, the girl's body was found Thursday. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, although details about how she died have not been released.
The girl's body was found in the woods, and police think it was put there after investigators found the evidence inside the trash can, Cayce Public Safety Sgt. Evan Antley said at a Friday news conference.
Antley didn't directly link the death of 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor, whose body was found at his home, to the girl's killing. But Antley said the item found in Taylor's trash Thursday was something listed on the missing person flyer created after she disappeared. He did not specify exactly what it was.
"Our evidence and our investigation does link these two together, I can confirm he was a neighbor. He was not a relative. He was not a friend. He was merely a neighbor," Antley said.
Both bodies were found Thursday after the item was found by investigators who followed around a trash truck and sifted through the garbage as it made a special trip in the neighborhood, Antley said.
After finding the item, investigators were quickly organizing a methodical search of nearby woods that had been searched before when Cayce Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove found Faye's body, Antley said. Less than three hours later, Snellgrove's voice trembled as he publicly announced her death.
Investigators found Taylor's body inside his home shortly after they found the girl's body, Antley said. He refused to characterize how Taylor might have died.
Autopsies on both Taylor and the girl are scheduled for Saturday and their causes of death will not be released until the coroner can review the results.
In a 911 call released Friday, Faye's mother said her daughter was in the front yard after getting off the school bus and then just suddenly disappeared. She said she searched for her before calling police.
"I checked all the houses in my neighborhood and anybody that actually answered is out looking for her too," the girl's mother said after carefully describing what her daughter was wearing through tears in the 911 call.
More than 250 officers searched for the girl over three days. They knocked on every door in the neighborhood and Taylor spoke to police in his home before the evidence was discovered, Antley said.
Investigators sealed off the entrance to the neighborhood for a while, questioning everyone going in and out, said Antley, who thanked them for their patience.
"We went in there and turned their lives upside down. We made them late for work, we searched their homes and we invaded their privacy," Antley said. "But we did it for a reason and we had a goal."
The girl's disappearance shocked Cayce, a town of about 13,000 people just west of Columbia. Several prayer vigils were held while she was missing and after her body was found.