As anniversary of unsolved murder nears, questions remain

Sunday, October 11, 2020
General Manager Mike Smith can be reached at 285-4091, ext. 120 or by email at

Throughout the course of a week, itís seldom one will pass without someone bringing up the question... who killed Karen Swift?

While many have their own theories regarding the murder of the mother of four, itís been nine long years since the tragic incident occurred and yet the case remains in limbo, or does it?

Currently, the case is in the hands of District Attorney General Danny Goodman, and has been since the Dyer County Sheriffís Office turned over all information regarding the murder investigation in October of 2019.

I remember meeting with Goodman and Sheriff Jeff Box when the case was handed over, and after eight years of waiting for the killer to be charged, I knew better than to think someone would be charged quickly. Goodman acknowledged working through the evidence would take time, which I understood.

Though the district attorney has the case before him, in order to charge someone for the murder, there has to be enough evidence to present to the grand jury to obtain an indictment. Goodman and staff get one chance at this, so everyone should completely understand the delay in charging a suspect.

For nine years there hasnít been an opinion shared in this space regarding much of anything regarding the tragic death of Swift, but there comes a time when remaining silent just isnít working anymore.

As one of the only people to ever interview David Swift, the husband of Karen, itís time to share a few thoughts regarding the case, without damaging the investigation in any way, shape, or form.

Three years after the murder, David Swift agreed to sit down with me for an interview. I felt I was thoroughly prepared with a number of questions, so I traveled to Arkansas to meet him at a location he approved of for the interview. Prior to the interview, I had never met Swift.

We had lunch and I began to ask questions, lots of them. The thing I was most interested in was the night Karen went missing, and it was something Swift did not want to discuss. To this day it is something I still donít understand, and Iíll explain why.

First and foremost, if someone murdered my wife, whether I was set to go through a divorce as the Swifts were or not, and I had nothing to do with it, there wouldnít be a question I couldnít answer about the tragic circumstances of her murder. Nothing.

If it was my wife and I had nothing to do with it, I would have been at the sheriffís office every day wanting to know the progress regarding my wifeís murder. Not just every now and then, but every single day Sheriff Jeff Box would have had to see my face and deal with me on the progress of the investigation.

Understanding in most cases such as this the first one looked at is the husband, I would have done whatever necessary to rule myself out of the crime, again, if indeed I had nothing to do with it. I wouldnít need a lawyer because I hadnít done anything wrong. I would have agreed to take a polygraph or anything else law enforcement needed me to do to rule me out as a suspect.

In no way am I saying Swift murdered his wife, but what I am saying is there is a lot about his actions, or non-actions, that myself as well as law enforcement simply donít understand. I will say I left the interview feeling very strongly about what happened the night she went missing, and who actually committed the crime. However, Iíve kept that to myself, in most cases.

Now, letís fast-forward a little bit and discuss a couple of theories regarding the case. The one most have heard of by now involves a local family, the Sells family. This theory spread like an uncontrolled wildfire, and to be honest itís about as far-fetched as Iíve ever seen.

Somehow, a private investigator got involved in the case and focused her attention squarely on the Sells family. I had conversations with this woman a couple of years ago regarding the murder. At first, I thought her investigation was genuine. However, as time went on it became clear the apparent motive of the investigation was to point the finger at anyone except the husband. Why is that?

Iíve known the Sells family for a long time. Darren Sells is a frequent playing partner of mine on the golf course, and his dad Darrell used to play with us as well. However, Iím unbiased despite our friendship and believe with every ounce of my being the Sells had as much to do with this tragic murder as I did, which is absolutely nothing.

Darrellís problem regarding this tragedy is quite simply that he is a bit nosey, no disrespect intended, and when the television crews arrived where the body was found in 2011, he was interviewed by one of the stations because he drove out there to see what was going on, just like many others. In this town we all want to know what is going on, and Darrell Sells is no different. However, this private investigator latched on to him and his family and surged ahead. This family has been put through the ringer, and they donít deserve it the least bit.

Currently, there are two people charged with attempting to extort money from Sells regarding the Swift case, and there are pending lawsuits filed by the Sells family against the private investigator as well as one of those charged with extortion.

Itís been said by the private investigator different people saw Sells with a metal detector searching for a watch at the location where Swiftís body was found. When I asked if any one that saw Sells there talked to him, the answer was no. So, if no one talked to him how in the world did anyone know what he was looking for? The story soon changed that he was searching for a wedding ring with the metal detector, and the list goes on and on. Honestly, this has gotten out of hand.

There have been so many stories itís hard to keep count, but Iím firm in my belief that one day, maybe sooner than later, the person or persons involved in this tragic murder will be brought to justice and charged accordingly. I respect the fire out of Goodman and his staff. If there is enough evidence to indict, then someone will be charged.

I also know this much about it as well. Every day someone wakes up knowing they killed this woman. It has to be the first thing they think of when they open their eyes, and that, my friends, has to be a terrible way to live life. I cannot imagine having to live with the guilt, but someone out there is doing so today.

Nobody is ever going to come forward and admit to murdering Karen Swift, but in the coming days, weeks, months or even years, the killer will have to face a jury. Perhaps it wonít be a jury sitting in a jury box at the courthouse, it may on judgment day before God. However, I whole-heartedly believe Goodman will present the case to a grand jury at some point.

In closing, Karen Swift deserves justice just like anyone else murdered here or anywhere else.

Again, if God forbid something happened to my wife, I would never go away until the person that committed the crime was brought to justice. It just wouldnít happen.

Karen Swift is owed that much, and much more.

Until next timeÖ

View 18 comments
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  • You good sir,are pointing the blame just the same as the people you wrote about. Anything other than facts being printed about this case is nothing but gossip and un fair to all parties involved. I love reading your articles but this one is shady and un professional.

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Mon, Oct 12, 2020, at 4:22 AM
  • This is biased reporting and highly unethical journalism in my opinion. Thanks for letting us know just how close to the Sells family you are. I went back and read the Oct. 31, 2014 interview with Mr. Swift. I think he answered all your questions and then more. He can't answer for what he doesn't know as to what happened to his wife if he is not guilty. Way to use the paper to taint public opinion but I think it backfired on you!

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Mon, Oct 12, 2020, at 12:05 PM
  • there are several more unanswered murders here in Dyer County, as i don't see you writing about them in the paper, yes i know the Sells just like everyone, but there are other people that were murdered, and deserve the attention as well

    -- Posted by mjowers on Mon, Oct 12, 2020, at 6:30 PM
  • Well, I slept in a Holiday Inn Express last night and that makes me a Sherlock Holmes!

    -- Posted by DyersburgStrong on Mon, Oct 12, 2020, at 6:48 PM
  • The PAPER is being used a opinion column report the facts only not your thoughts Mr. Smith

    -- Posted by trav1 on Mon, Oct 12, 2020, at 11:05 PM
  • I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw the shame job cover my buddies track reporting here. You need to leave the articles to the ones that know how to report sir.

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Tue, Oct 13, 2020, at 4:05 AM
  • This is one sided reporting. I see many issues with Mike Smith's claims. I bet you would have a lawyer. I bet your paper has a lawyer on standby. I saw the sheriff has a lawyer in the Tinkle case. If not guilty why do you all have one? Please start reporting the facts in our town not who you want to protect! Also, report on all the unsolved cases.

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Tue, Oct 13, 2020, at 9:36 AM
    Response by Mike Smith, General Manager, Dyersburg State Gazette:
    Thank you for reading and for your comment. The written editorial is an opinion. We have written numerous articles on the case. Again, an editorial is an opinion.
  • We all have opinions! We want the facts not some opinion of the general manager of the Dyersburg State Gazette. You're buddies may like what you're doing for them but I promise you the public does not. Opinions are like.........we all have one!

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 1:51 AM
  • A good journalist should be impartial but we see what Darrell Sells post to you on Facebook: "Darrell Sells

    Thank you Mr. Smith for your Article on the murder of Karen Swift in Sundays Paper. Our families appreciate your involvement ment I appreciate your help

    October 12 at 9:50 AM" What involvement is Mr. Sells referring to and at which time? I have also seen a post from you calling Mr. Sells "Big Daddy" very odd behavior in my opinion.

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 2:31 AM
  • Five Core Principles of Journalism FROM EJN

    1. Truth and Accuracy

    Journalists cannot always guarantee Ďtruthí, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.

    2. Independence

    Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors Ė or the audience Ė any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.

    3. Fairness and Impartiality

    Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.

    4. Humanity

    Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.

    5. Accountability

    A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 2:45 AM
  • This so called reporter is a joke. Gtfo man! Wonder how much you got paid to post your "opinion"

    -- Posted by Keepup76! on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 11:49 AM
  • Wow, so yíall get all ****** because the Editor wrote his opinion.

    I donít think yíall are really ****** about his opinion, as much as his comment about being friends with Darren Sells.

    Mikes job as an editor, when he writes an editorial, is just that, his opinion. It is not a news is a freaking editorial, aka opinion.

    The Sells family, regardless if you do or do not like them, have been the victim of stupid small town gossip and slander; it jis perfectly acceptable for Mike to voice his opinion about that in his editorial.

    As far as the facts go, none of you have the facts.....and thank God for that. All you know is what you hear and therefor swear as the gospel truth.

    The only facts here are small minded people who have accepted gossip/rumor as facts and blasting the Editor for simply writing his opinion in a column that is designed for opinions.

    -- Posted by DyersburgStrong on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 12:26 PM
  • The facts are that Mr. Smith is the general manager of our paper and has tainted public opinion by using the State Gazette as a platform for his own use to protect his friends. It also appears Mr. Smith has contradicted himself from previous articles he has written. It just seems downright shady and immature if you ask me.

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 4:22 PM
  • Well, yes, and he can use his platform as Editor to say what he wants absent slander/libel.

    You too have the option to write a letter to the editor, and I am sure they will publish it, so long you sign your name.

    ďTainting public opinionĒ? You could say that freedom of speech taints public opinion everyday, from the senior citizens eating breakfast as a group at McDonalds, hole 18 at the Farms, the lobby of First Baptist Church, and the pulpit, radio station, cable news, the classroom, and even your spouse.

    Oh, I forgot about Party line and Dyersburg Topix......lot of tainting going on there for sure....

    -- Posted by DyersburgStrong on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 7:53 PM
  • I bet it would not be published. I don't have the right last name!

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Wed, Oct 14, 2020, at 8:18 PM
    Response by Mike Smith, General Manager, Dyersburg State Gazette:
    We are happy to print letters to the editor. Please feel free to submit your letter, with your actual name. We print all letters to the editor. Thanks.
  • I'm sure you do haha

    -- Posted by trav1 on Fri, Oct 16, 2020, at 4:22 AM
  • This is reporting from your own paper Sept. 7, 2005 proof in the pudding but Bill Hiles did report it and not Mike Smith. Mr. Hiles did not appear to be biased unlike Mr. Smith.

    "Mr. Burnett is not able to participate in his defense," White said. "That is caused by Mr. Sells' death threats to Mr. Burnett."

    White called Sells as a witness.

    When asked by White if he had ever threatened to kill Burnett, Sells replied "Hell, no" and Stafford admonished him for cursing on the witness stand.

    Sells admitted he had said he would "blow a hole in Frank Burnett's rear big enough to drive one of his trucks through," but said he and Burnett had met amicably after church about six weeks ago.

    White next called as a witness Judith Kirkland, an employee of the business run by Burnett and Joslin.

    She testified that in February or early March, Sells told her he was frustrated with not getting an accounting of the loan-package business from Burnett and had "said he could kill Frank Burnett."

    "When I told him, he shouldn't say that, he said, 'I will hurt him real bad,'" she testified.

    Kirkland said Sells repeated the threat four to six weeks later, using the same words.

    -- Posted by EagleOne64 on Sat, Dec 19, 2020, at 11:03 PM
  • With all due respect to Mark Smith's opinion, his discussion about the news crew video with Darrell Sells is, in my opinion, disingenuous. The curiosity with that news video was not simply because he was randomly there, that is explained by the fact that the case went national and peaked the interest of many. The curiosity with the video is what he said in it, primarily his statement that his daughter did not know Karen.

    -- Posted by GeorgeWambles on Mon, Jul 1, 2024, at 9:57 AM
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