Swift children take the stand during last day of testimony; closing arguments to be heard Wednesday

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
Ashley Swift, who was only nine years old when her mother, Karen Swift, was murdered fought back tears while testifying in court to her memory of the night her mother disappeared, October 30, 2011.
State Gazette photo/ Rachel Townsend



Day 6 in the Karen Swift trial marked the final day of testimonies called upon by the Defense. The case will now be handed over to the jury for deliberation and verdict following closing arguments on Wednesday, June 5.

For the first time during the trial, David Swift audibly begins to cry as he watches his oldest daughter Ashley take the stand.
State Gazette photo/ Rachel Townsend

Tuesday’s proceedings included testimony from Karen and David Swift’s oldest daughter, Ashley, who was only nine years old when her mother was murdered. Also taking the stand was the Swifts’ youngest son, Dustin, who was 18 years old when the incident occurred.

Ashley was picked up from a sleepover by her mother sometime after midnight on October 30, 2011. Taking the stand first, Ashley was immediately brought to tears. Sobbing could also be heard from her father, David Swift, as she began her testimony to the jury.

Ashley testified that she and her mother went home and slept in the same bed together the night the incident occurred. At some point during the night, Ashley said she was moved to her sister’s bedroom. While she did not visually identify the person who moved her, she told the jury that she knew it was her mother because she knew her “mother’s touch”. Ashley told the jury that her parents spoke briefly upon her and her mother’s arrival home.

Dustin Swift takes the stand following testimony from his sister, Ashley.
State Gazette photo/ Rachel Townsend

She recalled Karen Swift standing in the living room when the two spoke, however, she could not recall if her father was upstairs. In earlier testimony, recorded interviews were played for the jury where David Swift had stated he was upstairs when he and Karen Swift spoke upon her arrival home that night.

In her testimony, Ashley said she and her siblings have been raised by their father since their mother’s 2011 murder.

During Dustin’s testimony, he stated he was not home on the night of October 30, 2011, but was already in college at UT-Martin. He testified that a friend received a phone call to drive him back to his parent’s house where he learned of his mother’s disappearance.

Dustin said he recalled his father being on crutches before Karen Swift’s disappearance. He also noted an instance where one of the family dogs was killed, hit by the car as his mother was backing out of the driveway. He said the dog was carried into the garage area to be prayed over before being buried. It was noted earlier in the trial that DNA from other than human origins was found in the garage during the search and forensic sweep of the Swift residence. Additionally, Dustin testified that the garage door typically remained cracked open for the animals to wander in and out. He said there were times when the family would also leave the garage door open.

When asked if the Swifts had a swimming pool, Dustin testified the family did have an above-ground pool. He noted that bleach and Pool Shock were used to clean the family’s pool every year. Testimony earlier in the trial revealed seven gallons of bleach near the Swifts’ garage that were photographed by the Violent Crimes Task Force but were never taken in as evidence.

Following his mother’s disappearance, Dustin said he spent time during the late night, and early morning hours searching for his mother. He testified that, during one of his searches, he witnessed a man, later identified to him as Darrell Sells, between the Bogota cross and Hwy. 78. He said he saw Sells holding a metal detector. When asked about his activities in the area, Dustin said Sells told him that he was there exercising and looking for a watch. Presented by District Attorney General Danny Goodman, Dustin, roughly 8 months after his mother’s murder, submitted a statement to law enforcement about the encounter.

When asked why he didn’t submit the statement earlier, Dustin testified that he delayed submitting the statement due to the “bad treatment” he and his family experienced from law enforcement during the time surrounding his mother’s disappearance.

Testimony was also heard from Chris Naifeh and Angela Gibbs (formerly Angela Naifeh) who were neighbors of the Swifts in 2011. While there were some inconsistencies in their testimonies, both agreed they had seen Sells in the area of the Bogota cross following the disappearance of Karen Swift. Like Dustin, they said they witnessed Sells carrying a metal detector. Naifeh testified that he did not recognize Sells, but identified him later during a news report where Sells was being interviewed regarding Karen Swift’s disappearance. He mentioned seeing Sells on a second occasion also, that time with a red-headed woman he could not identify.

Gibbs said she was only with Naifeh during one spotting of Sells. In contrast to Naifeh’s statement, Gibbs says she did recognize Sells. She testified that she and Naifeh discussed the sighting on their way home from church. She had no recollection of ever seeing a red-headed woman in the area with Sells.

Following Karen Swift’s disappearance, both Gibbs and Sells also denied smelling any strange scents or chemicals around their home like those reported in the testimony of neighbor John Hogshooter during the first days of the trial.

Additional testimony was heard by Alecia Pigg, who knew Karen from Trimble house, and Cade Butler, who testified to seeing a blue truck parked next to Karen Swift’s abandoned vehicle on the day of her disappearance.

Butler was 11 years old when the incident occurred. He testified that he witnessed a tall man with a blue truck parked near Karen Swift’s SUV. When he and his father slowed down to talk to the man, Butler said he brandished a pistol and placed it on the hood of the vehicle. He said the man did not resemble David Swift. When cross-examined by the State, Butler’s testimony to the time of the day, color of Swift’s vehicle, and position of Karen Swift’s vehicle conflicted with evidence established in the case.

Lastly, David Williams, a mobile location communication networks and computer design expert, testified on behalf of the Defense. During Williams’ statement, he testified that the last time Karen Swift’s cell phone was used was at 5:09 a.m. Previous testimony from State witness Carla Rexing, a TBI Special Agent, showed evidence that Swift’s phone was last used at 4:38 a.m. on the day of her disappearance.

Williams testified that while Swift’s cell phone would have continued to try to connect to a cellular tower. A cell phone record would only have been made if making/ receiving a call, receiving incoming/outgoing texts, or sending/receiving data.

Closing arguments and deliberation begin Wednesday morning, June 5, at 8:30 a.m.

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  • Not guilty

    -- Posted by donniejean08 on Tue, Jun 4, 2024, at 10:02 PM
  • Sounds like we need to take a good look at the not so mysterious man wielding the metal detector.

    -- Posted by Mr. World on Tue, Jun 4, 2024, at 10:38 PM
  • Money and power rule this small town, been that way for more than 50 yrs.

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Thu, Jun 6, 2024, at 7:41 AM
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