ABC7 Chicago executive producer Anne Swaney (Medill ’98) was found strangled to death Friday in Belize, where she was on vacation.
An autopsy determined the 39-year-old executive producer of online operations, whose body was found floating face-down in the Mopan River, died of “asphyxia due to compression of the neck area, throttling and blunt force traumatic injuries to the head and neck,” according to ABC7 Chicago.
Described as an avid world traveler, Swaney, who worked at ABC7 since 1999 after graduation, was vacationing alone, according to ABC7. She was supposed to go on a group horseback trip Thursday, but stayed back when there were not enough horses and opted for yoga by the river. Swaney never returned.
“She was a trailblazer in the digital news space and was one of our first website employees,” John H. Idler, president and general manager of ABC7, said in a statement. “Anne helped us evolve our business and our newsroom, but most importantly, she was a kind person who always had a smile and a positive attitude.”
Medill Prof. Roger Boye, who served as Swaney’s academic advisor and Journalism 301 professor, remembered the late journalist as a dedicated, engaged woman with a dry sense of humor.
“When she would stop by for a visit it was like a burst of sunshine in the office,” Boye said. “She was a wonderful person.”
In a statement for Boye’s class in 1996, Swaney wrote she was studying journalism because “There is so much going on in the world, so many things to see and do. I want to experience it all … I want to do more than just write about it, I want to tell people.”
Boye said Swaney expressed interest in 2010 about eventually becoming a journalism professor at Medill.
“To see someone in the prime of life, who was in the midst of such a wonderful career and such promise beyond that, to be murdered is just such a tragedy,” Boye said.
While no one has been charged in the murder, ABC7 reported that a Guatemalan fisherman is being held in custody as a person of interest. Police are continuing to search the area where Swaney’s body was found.
At Northwestern, Swaney was a member of Pi Beta Phi.
NU released a statement Friday that said the school was saddened to learn of Swaney’s death.
“On behalf of the University, we express our condolences to Anne’s family and friends,” University spokesman Al Cubbage said in the statement. “We extend our deepest sympathy to them.”