Intense manhunt under way killer in Arlington

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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How to help A $10,000 reward has been offered for the arrest and indictment of the person responsible for Leona Swafford’s death. Anyone with information should call police at 817-575-8529 or Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477.

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Leona Swafford, the woman senselessly killed by a carjacker on Tuesday, was the “guiding light” of her family, a woman who helped people in need, who “picked you up when you were down,” her grandson Ben Harben said Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference with other family members, Harben urged people to step forward and provide information about the man who kidnapped the 83-year-old grandmother as she pulled into her driveway and then beat her to death.

Her body was left behind a vacant house about three miles from where she was abducted.

“This guy needs to be caught, and someone knows him,” said Harben, of South Carolina. “We already miss our grandmother.”

“Our grandmother was a great lady,” said grandson Steven Harben, also of South Carolina. “The support this community has given us has been great. This is my community because I grew up here. But now we need help to find this guy.”

Police on Wednesday intensified their search for the carjacker by flooding neighborhoods with fliers that contained the composite sketch of the suspect.

“This was a grandmother, a mother, a defenseless woman,” Arlington police Sgt. Christopher Cook said. “There was no reason to kill her ... such a senseless act of violence against her and against our community. Somebody knows something. They need to come forward and give this suspect up.”

Officers passed out the fliers in English and Spanish in Swafford’s neighborhood, in the area where her body was found and in the apartment complex where police later found her abandoned car. Billboards with information on the crime have also gone up across Dallas-Fort Worth with the hope of bringing in leads.

Witnesses described the carjacker as a black man with very dark skin in his late 20s to late 30s, about 6 feet tall with a muscular build. He had short hair, “possibly 1/2-inch Afro,” and little or no facial hair.

He was wearing a light-colored shirt and blue jeans.

Cook said residents should not only be aware of the suspect’s description, but should be watchful for other clues such as extreme behavioral changes.

“Look out for someone who may exhibit strange behaviors, such as refusing to come outside of a residence or only exiting for short periods of time,” he said. “The suspect may unexpectedly leave town. He may also appear nervous and change their normal routine.

“The community should not lock in on the composite as the sole factor in identifying the suspect as it’s not an exact picture of what the suspect might look like.”

‘We thank him so much’

The attack occurred about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when Swafford pulled into her driveway in the 400 block of Sussex Drive near Vandergriff Park. The assailant, who was armed with a handgun, jumped her, fought off a neighbor and quickly drove off with her in her 2010 Lincoln MKZ. He slammed into a parked car as he fled.

The neighbor who confronted the attacker was not injured, police said. On Wednesday, Swafford’s family members thanked him.

“That citizen made quite an attempt to no avail,” said Richard Carter, who is married to Swafford’s niece. “We thank him so much for trying.”

About 90 minutes later, Swafford’s body was found three miles away, near another home in the 1900 block of Kimberly Drive, behind the Park Plaza strip center on New York Avenue, police said. She had suffered head wounds, police said.

Shortly after 11 a.m., police found her Lincoln at an apartment complex in the 2000 block of Elm Point Drive, which is behind the Police Department’s east substation.

On Wednesday, Cook declined to comment on whether the suspect’s fingerprints might have been left in Swafford’s car or how he might have gotten to her neighborhood before the attack.

He said detectives were checking on business surveillance cameras near the crime scenes.

“We are also asking that, in some cases, there could be some private surveillance cameras in neighborhoods that may have captured something,” Cook said. “We’d like to know about those.”

A fixture in the community

The Swafford family is well-known in Arlington. Mrs. Swafford’s husband, Roy, had a distinguished military career and then was a familiar sight at the city’s main post office on South Street, where he worked for years. He died in 2010.

His obituary noted that the couple had been married for 48 years and had six daughters, one son and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

One of Swafford’s sons-in-law is a retired Arlington police lieutenant.

For years, Ben Harben said, his grandmother provided emotional support for many in the family.

“I felt very helpless when I heard the news of what happened to her,” he said. “But I have faith in this community and Arlington police that this guy is going to be caught.”

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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400 block of Sussex Drive, Arlington, TX
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