Women who knew Swift rule out possibility that she ran off on her own
The investigation into the disappearance of Karen Swift has been going on for over a month with still not sign of the mother of four.
As Dyer County Sheriff's investigators are scouring over information and looking into every possible scenario as to what could have happened to her, some women that knew Swift are ruling out the possibility that she ran away.
Mary Claire Hopper, Laura Gentry and Cathy Bona all knew Swift and all say that their interaction with her on the days leading up to her disappearance show a woman that had plans for the future.
Hopper, director of Habitat for Humanity in Northwest Tennessee, knew Swift from the YMCA of Dyer County where they both worked out. Hopper is also an aerobics instructor at the YMCA, as was Swift. Swift had begun teaching an aerobics class called Silver Sneakers, which is a fitness program for older adults.
The two were working out on Tuesday, Oct. 25, when Swift said she was looking for some cleaning jobs. It just so happened that Hopper had a Habitat for Humanity house on Walnut Street in Trimble that was in bad need of a cleaning.
"It was perfect timing," said Hopper. "We were just talking and she said 'if you know anybody that has any cleaning jobs to give me a call'. It was a circumstantial coincidence that she asked me and I needed somebody to help clean up the house."
The house had been foreclosed on and Hopper described the inside as being in less-than-pleasant condition.
"It was really dirty," said Hopper. "There was a lot of work that needed to be done. I thought I was going to have to call a professional service it was so bad."
Hopper says this is when the two began to exchange text messages about Swift's new job as an aerobics instructor and the cleaning job.
* Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011
Swift - "OMG! I am loving Silver Sneakers."
Hopper - "Aren't they sweet?"
Swift - "Love them!"
Swift - "Did you go by the house?"
Hopper - "Yes it already looks better."
* Friday, Oct. 28
Swift - "OK I am about to set (bug)bombs off & lock up, been here since 7:30! I will have to come back. Got bathrooms to do. Mop also stove and fridge. Is Wednesday soon enough? I can tomorrow if you need me to. I work Monday and have a landscape job Tuesday."
* Saturday, Oct. 29, 2 p.m.
Hopper - "Don't worry about the fridge and stove. Getting new ones. Wednesday is fine. Great thanks! I will pay you as soon as possible."
Swift - "Hey, if I don't have to do fridge & stove. I will finish it early in the morning."
The last text Swift sent Hopper was referring to cleaning the house on Sunday morning (Oct. 30), the day she was reported missing.
Hopper found out Swift was missing after Swift's best friend, Cathy Bona, texted her and said they were looking for her.
"I thought she was probably at the Trimble house," said Hopper.
After a short time had passed, Bona called Hopper and said they had found her car with a flat tire and Swift was missing.
"The worst just started going through my mind," said Hopper.
Hopper had not paid Swift for cleaning the house, but said she was going to make at least $250 - $300 and possibly more because it was a lot of work she did.
Laura Gentry is Swift's friend who Swift was supposed to do the landscaping with on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Gentry knew Swift because their daughters were in dance class together and they both worked out at the YMCA.
"On Tuesday (Nov. 1), we were going to spend the whole day working," said Gentry. "We were looking forward to catching up."
Gentry and Swift exchanged several text messages talking about the upcoming landscaping job.
* Tuesday, Oct. 25
Swift - "OK if u are willing to help me, it will be a long hard, fast pace, non stop day! I like to work hard and get it done! We will have your landscaping in tip top shape! $100 is what I can do!
Gentry - "Sounds good to me! Thanks Karen!"
Swift - "Let me know when you are ready."
Gentry - "Prob not till next week...Tues, Wed, Fri works for me. Or we can wait if u hav stuff to do...I'm flexible."
Swift - "Tuesday is great!"
Gentry - "Done!"
Swift - (smiley face)
Gentry said she last spoke to Swift on Friday, Oct. 28, and they again planned to meet at her house to do the landscaping.
"She was like, 'I'll see you Tuesday'," said Gentry.
Swift was one of Bona's closest friends and she too states Swift had plans for the future and would not have disappeared on her own. She says Swift also exchanged text messages with her about her upcoming plans and new jobs.
* Thursday, Oct. 27, 7:19 a.m.
Swift - "Found out Ann Buckner needs house keeper! She is supposed to call me!"
Swift - "Working at Laura's Tuesday! Work is coming in like crazy! Starting a new class at Y in next couple of weeks!"
Bona - "sounds like its going in the right direction!!!"
* Thursday Oct. 27, 6:54 p.m.
Swift - "Looking for one more house to clean! With 3 houses, SilverSneakers & the other class Patrick wants me to start, I will be fine! May do Tues & Thurs evenings about 5 or so!"
Bona says Swift was taking on jobs like Hopper's and Gentry's so she could have more of an income.
"She wanted to be independent and self sufficient with an upcoming divorce," said Bona. "Every time (a job) came up, she would get so excited."
Swift had filed for divorce from her husband, David, but was still residing at the residence with him on Willie Johnson Road when she was reported missing on Sunday, Oct. 30.
Bona says she has totally ruled out the possibility that Swift left on her own, mainly because she loved her children.
"She would never leave those girls," said Bona.
Gentry shares the same sentiment as Bona about Swift's love for her children.
"Karen is a loyal friend and fiercely protective mother," said Gentry. "There is no way she would have left those kids willingly."
Bona also says Swift would not have run off if she was still expecting to get paid for all the hard work she put into cleaning the house in Trimble.
"Why would you run off after you cleaned a house like that," asked Bona. "You wouldn't. She wasn't asking for the money until she was finished and she still had one more day."
Randy Bulter, executive director of the YMCA, was Swift's boss at the facility and had known her since 2008. He had spoken with Swift on the Thursday before her disappearance and says she was upbeat about new things taking place in her life.
"I just chatted with her about how things were going," said Butler. "She was talking to me about becoming a personal trainer and the plans about the new classes at the YMCA and she had just got certified. She also said she had two landscaping jobs."
He said Swift was a very hard worker and praised her for her work ethic.
"She was a model beginning part-time employee," said Butler. "I wish I could have three or four more like of her because good instructors are hard to find."
Butler said he saw a transformation in Swift as she dove into her new job as an aerobics instructor.
"She was getting comfortable with teaching and I saw her build confidence," said Butler. "She was kind of shy and she kind of grew as a person. She talked to me a couple of times on how to be (fitness) instructor and the Silver Sneakers class was enjoying her. She was an avid runner and took a lot of the different classes. She had a passion to get out and move."
He noted that when the news of Swift's disappearance made its way around the facility, many were grief stricken.
"Everybody heard she was missing and it was a real somber tone," said Butler. "There were a lot of upset people that couldn't understand why she would be missing."
Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box said his department continues to make Swift's case their top priority and text messages from Swift are part of the information they are piecing together.
"The department has a tremendous amount of electronic data on Karen Swift," said Box. "But, we are still asking the public if they have any information about her to contact us. We are looking for anybody that has similar text messages. There may be some messages that didn't show up in our phone records. And she may have sent them from another phone.
"We are still putting this case together and still believe there are people that may have seen things that we do not know," said Box. "We are always looking for the right bits and pieces to solve a case."
Box is still encouraging anybody with any information about Swift, no matter how minute or insignificant it may seem, to contact the sheriff's department.
"Anyone that has any communication from Swift may forward messages to us," said Box. "And anyone that wants to come forward with information or any sensitive information, we will treat it with the utmost confidence."
Box noted information on Swift can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Swift, a 44-year-old mother of four was last seen early Sunday morning, Oct. 30, by her husband at their home on Willie Johnson Road after she reportedly returned from a Halloween party. Her white 2004 Nissan Murano was later found on Sunday, Oct. 30, on Millsfield Highway near the intersection of Harness Road with a flat tire.
Karen Johnson Swift is described as:
Height: 5' 5"
Weight: 138 lbs.
Anyone who has had contact with Swift, recalls seeing anyone near her vehicle since her disappearance on Sunday, Oct. 30, or has information regarding her whereabouts is asked to contact the Dyer County Sheriff's Office at 731-285-2802.
Crime Stoppers of Dyer County is offering a cash reward for information that would lead to an arrest and conviction in this case. Callers can reach Crime Stoppers at 731-285-TIPS (8477).