Reward offered for suspect in fatal carjacking of elderly Arlington woman

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by MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on June 4, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 7:55 PM

Fatal carjacking, kidnapping

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ARLINGTON –– Officers took their search for a suspect in the carjacking, kidnapping, and death of an 83-year-old woman door-to-door Tuesday afternoon according to Sgt. Vincent Pewitt in an Arlington police news conference.

Arlington police said they were first alerted to the crime at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 400 block of Sussex Dr. According to a statement released by police, a witness said he saw a man approach Leona Swafford as she drove into the driveway of her home after picking up donuts.

The witness told police he became involved in an altercation with the man after he saw the suspect assault Swafford. However, the suspect was able to drive away from the scene with the victim still inside the vehicle.

Juan Varella said he ran outside just as the suspect crashed Swafford's car into his, and then sped away.

"I was in the house and heard screams," said Janell Havran, a neighbor three doors down.

She saw Swafford's adult daughter, who lives at the home, heartbroken and collapsed on the driveway seconds after the abduction.

Police said construction workers discovered Swafford's body at about 10 a.m. on the side of a vacant house located in the 1900 block of Kimberly Dr., about three miles from where she was taken. Authorities said she suffered trauma to her head, but a formal cause of death is pending an autopsy by the medical examiner.

The stolen Lincoln MZK vehicle was found with no sign of the suspect more than an hour later in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 2000 block of Elm Point Dr., about a mile away from where the victim's body was found. Police surrounded the complex in the early afternoon and checked vehicles entering and exiting, however the whereabouts and identity of the suspect was still unknown as of 2:30 p.m.

"We're using everything that we can to locate the person," said Sgt. Pewitt.  "If he's hunkered down here or if he's moved on, whatever tips or leads we get, we're going to follow up on them."

Police updated their description of the suspect and released a composite sketch Tuesday night.

The carjacker was described as a black male in his late 20s to late 30s, has a muscular build, dark skin, little-to-no facial hair, is between 5-foot-11 and 6-feet tall, with short hair, possibly styled in a half-inch afro.

Oak Farms Dairy has offered $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the case.

Pewitt said Swafford is related to a retired Arlington police officer who now works part time for the department on patrol.

There was a steady inflow of family and friends coming to Swafford's home Tuesday evening. There was also a police presence at the home through the night.

"She was just a sweet, sweet old woman," said neighbor Mary Shirey.

Friends and neighbors say Leona Swafford loved the roses and flowers she planted, and was proud to have one of the nicest yards on the block. She had lived in the home for 40 years.

Swafford lost her husband to illness in 2010. She has a large and loving family that includes great grandchildren. Her 84th birthday would have been Friday.

Police have asked anyone with information pertaining to the crime call 911 immediately.

Meanwhile, there was extra vigilance on the part of police and residents in Arlington on Tuesday night.

"I'm going to close my doors and make sure all my windows are barred down, locked, and stuff," said neighbor Dominic Romey.

Neighbor Ashley Bell carried a bottle of cayenne pepper in her purse.

"I'm just protecting my children the only way I possibly can," she said.

WFAA's Steve Stoler, Jobin Panicker, and Janet St. James contributed to this report

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