Herbert Swilley cooperated with police before quickly retaining a lawyer and asking for immunity, say police
A Florida man who raised thousands of dollars on GoFundMe after his husband was found slain in their home in March has now been charged with first-degree murder in connection with his death, according to police statements and documents obtained by PEOPLE.
Herbert Swilley, 55, was arrested by the Marion County Sheriff's Office on Friday, months after his husband Timothy Smith was found dead by authorities in Ocala, Fla., after he did not show up to work, according to an arrest affidavit.
Swilley requested a welfare check when he found Smith’s Jeep outside one of their two homes on March 24, a day after he said he'd last seen his husband, the affidavit says. Police were eventually able to go inside the residence the next day and found Smith, 59, on a bed “naked from the waist down,” having suffered “blunt trauma injuries to the face and possibly to the genitals.”
He also had ligature marks on his neck, the affidavit said. An autopsy determined Smith died from asphyxia and a fracture on his cervical spine, according to the affidavit.
Swilley is facing one charge of first degree premeditated murder and one charge of tampering with evidence, according to jail records.
A video by the sheriff's department shows Swilley being escorted out of a police car and moved to a jail without incident.
A press statement from the sheriff's department notes that Swilley was seen on camera disposing of two carpets in a landfill and removing videos from the couple's doorbell camera.
An officer wrote in the affidavit that a mutual friend who was interviewed during the investigation alleged Swilley had a history of violent outbursts, a bad temper and had made “homicidal threats.” The friend also said that Smith was “‘sick’ of taking care” of Swilley.
The affidavit also claimed other friends had told police about Swilley’s alleged temper, and two of them expressed fear of retaliation from him for speaking with authorities.
Police said even though Swilley spoke with detectives at the beginning of the investigation, he quickly retained a lawyer and did not speak with authorities when detectives tried to speak to him again. His attorney "indicated that he will only cooperate if he is provided with immunity from prosecution for Timothy’s murder," police said in a statement in August when naming him a suspect, PEOPLE reported at the time.
Jordan Swilley, Herbert's daughter, was also named a person of interest in the case in August. “She, too, gave a preliminary statement but has declined to speak to detectives further,” the sheriff’s office said at the time.
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Swilley is scheduled to appear in court next month. A person who answered the law office of his attorney Gail Grossman hung up when PEOPLE reached out to inquire further about the issue.
Smith, who police allege was a victim of domestic abuse from Swilley in the past, shared self-help and inspirational quotes on his Facebook page until Mar. 23, the day he was last seen.
Smith was remembered as someone who wanted to “empower others” and whose flashy outfits and kind personality “made everyone feel warm and loved in any room he walked into,” according to his loved ones who spoke to PEOPLE in August.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
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