Deputies: Marion County man drugged, strangled husband before staging fake crime scene

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — Deputies said a Marion County man drugged his husband and then strangled him before destroying evidence and attempting to fake a crime scene.


Marion County deputies arrested Herbert Swilley, 55, on charges related to the death of his husband, Timothy Smith, 59, on Friday morning. Investigators said Swilley killed Smith back in March of this year.

Investigators said Smith was dosed with a 30-times the normal amount of diphenhydramine, which is an ingredient in Benadryl and Unisom. They said Swilley then choked Smith to death with an unknown ligature at their home.

Read: Deputies: Husband named suspect in ‘brutal murder’ of Marion County man

Deputies said Swilley then drove Smith’s body to a nearby apartment they maintained, where they said he staged a fake crime scene and attempted to destroy evidence with cleaning agents.

Deputies said hours later, Swilley dropped off two carpets at a landfill before going about his day.

Read: Deputies are trying to find out who’s responsible for this Central Florida man’s ‘violent murder’

During the investigation, deputies said they learned Smith had suffered domestic abuse by Swilley, and that Smith was in the process of securing a new job in another county to leave Swilley.

Investigators said Swilley was listed as the beneficiary on Smith’s life insurance policies, which totaled $333,000.

Deputies said in the past, they learned that Swilley had filed several arson reports and insurance claims in Alachua County during his previous marriage.

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Deputies said Swilley originally pretended to be cooperative with law enforcement following Smith’s death, but they said many of the things he told them were false.

When deputies tried to reinterview Swilley, his attorney said he would only cooperate if he was provided with immunity from prosecution in Smith’s murder.

Sandy Riels, Smith’s sister, said she had called Swilley when she heard about Smith.

“(He) proceeded to tell me a story,” she said. “And with him telling me that story, he changed his thing about a key like two or three times. And so, I just had that gut feeling that it was him.”

Swilley is now being held without bond at the Marion County Jail on charges of premeditated first-degree murder, and tampering with evidence.

For Riels, this is a step toward justice and relief.

“(Smith) had a loving heart,” she said. “And he always spoke a kind word for anybody. I want him to be remembered as inspirational.”

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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