CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The 30-year-old man whose body was found as police investigated the death of a 6-year-old girl has ties to the Lowcountry.
Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher identified the man as Coty Scott Taylor. The Beaufort County School District confirmed Friday afternoon that Taylor was from the Bluffton area and graduated from Bluffton High School in 2007.
Cayce Department of Public Safety Sgt. Evan Antley told reporters at a news briefing Friday that Taylor’s death is linked to the death of 6-year-old Faye Swetlik.
Swetlik’s body was found Thursday morning near the entrance to the Churchill Heights neighborhood in Cayce where she lived with her mother and grandmother.
Authorities found Coty Scott Taylor, 30, dead in his home a short time later, Antley said.
Fisher declined to specify a cause of death for Taylor, saying an autopsy would be conducted Saturday.
“He was not a relative. He was not a friend. He was merely a neighbor and did live in Churchill Heights,” Antley said of Taylor.
Taylor did not have a criminal record and was not known to law enforcement, Antley said.
He said investigators from the Cayce Department of Public Safety, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and FBI agents following City of Cayce Municipal Sanitation trucks.
“What we were doing was emptying trash cans, looking to see what came out before it was entered into the truck,” Antley said. “As part of that search, we located a critical item of evidence related to our investigation of bringing Faye swiftly home.”
That evidence, Antley said, was found in the trash can that belonged to Taylor’s home in the 600 block of Picadilly Square. Investigators have said Taylor’s home was about 500 feet away from the Swetlik home.
“What I will confirm was there was a critical piece of evidence that would have been listed on her missing person’s flier,” Antley said. He would not specify what evidence was found, but the missing person’s flier circulated earlier in the week described specific articles of clothing Swetlik was wearing at the time she disappeared.
Based on the evidence, investigators narrowed down the search area, even though they had been there multiple times, Antley said. As a new search was being planned, Cayce Department of Public Safety Director Bryan Snellgrove found Swetlik’s body in a wooded area near the entrance to the neighborhood. A short time later, investigators found Taylor’s body at his home.
Antley said there was no reason to believe there is any active threat in the community.
“We have no suspects at this time, we have made no arrests, and we are not seeking any persons of interest at this time,” he said.
Antley said based on preliminary information from the coroner’s office, they do not believe Swetlik was in the wooded area where she was found for very long prior to the discovery of her body.
He said the investigation remained open.
Antley encouraged everyone to continue praying for the family and thanked the community and media for their patience.
“Yesterday was a tough day, possibly the toughest day for many law enforcement careers,” he said.
He also thanked the community for the tips called in to a special hotline set up for the investigation. Without those tips, he said, the investigation might not be where it stood as of Friday.
“We want to thank that neighborhood,” Antley said. “We went in there and turn their lives upside down. We made them late for work. We searched their homes, and we invaded their privacy. But we did it for a reason. And we had a goal. This is not the outcome we wanted. But this is where we are. And our work continues to bring justice for Faye Marie Swetlik.”
Snellgrove fought back tears as he made the grim announcement at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
“It is with extremely heavy hearts that we are announcing that we have found the body that the coroner has identified as Faye Marie Swetlik,” he said. “We are now treating this case as a homicide.”
Swetlik’s mother reported her missing Monday afternoon after realizing the girl had disappeared from their yard where she had last been seen around 3:45 p.m. The 911 call came in at approximately 5 p.m. Over the course of the next 72 hours, hundreds of law enforcement agents from Cayce, SLED and the FBI searched for her.
They also followed up more than a hundred tips called into a hotline.
Swetlik’s classmates at Springdale Elementary School showed their love earlier in the week by making heartfelt Valentine’s Day cards for her. Those cards were created before news of her death came. Some of the cards wished Faye a Happy Valentine’s Day, while most wished for her safe return and expressed how much they missed her.
Late Thursday afternoon, Lexington County School District 2 released a statement on Swetlik’s death:
We are heart-broken with news of the death of Faye Swetlik, a first-grade student at Springdale Elementary, who went missing earlier this week. When the school community experiences a tragedy like the loss of a child, it deeply affects all of us.
The district thanked all of the law enforcement agencies who worked to bring Swetlik home.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham was among public figures who responded to the news.
“Like all South Carolinians, I was heartbroken to hear the news about the death of Faye Swetlik,” Graham tweeted. “I pray for the family of this beautiful young girl as they deal with this horrific tragedy.”
“Our community is devastated to hear about the death of 6-year-old Faye Swetlik,” USC Women’s Head Basketball Coach Dawn Staley tweeted. “We prayed for a different outcome but our hearts are filled with sorrow. This senselessness must stop. Godspeed to her family, friends and community.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who visited The Citadel Thursday to receive an award, mentioned Swetlik in a speech to Cadets.
“But I would just urge everyone in South Carolina: Hug your children today,” he said. And keep this little girl and her family and her community in your prayers."
Pence said he spoke with the head of the FBI and said he promised South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster the full resources of the federal government to aid in the investigation into Swetlik’s death.