A man who was found dead in the neighborhood where 6-year-old Faye Swetlik disappeared was identified Friday as Faye’s neighbor, 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor, according to WBTV.
Faye’s body reportedly was found in a wooded area after she vanished from her Churchill Heights neighborhood Monday afternoon in South Carolina.
Officials said they found a “critical item of evidence” in Taylor’s trash that linked him to Faye, according to WBTV.
Taylor, who lived in Churchill Heights, was Faye’s neighbor. “He was not a relative or a friend,” officials said.
“This has been a tragic situation for our community, for our department, and for everyone who has been following the story of Faye Marie Swetlik,” officials told WBTV on Friday.
Officials said Faye’s body was found in a wooded area near her home. Taylor’s body was found a short time later at his home.
“We believe that Faye had not been in that location for a very long time at all,” officials said. They had previously searched the area multiple times.
Churchill Heights community members and people throughout the nation are mourning the death of Faye, who was found dead Thursday afternoon.
Faye, a first grader, returned home on a school bus and was last seen playing in her yard by family at about 3:45 p.m. Monday, said Sgt. Evan Antley of the Cayce Department of Public Safety.
Lexington County School District 2, which Springdale Elementary is part of, released a statement that said it was “heartbroken with news of the death.”
“When the school community experiences a tragedy like the loss of a child, it deeply affects all of us,” the district said.
Springdale Elementary will have extra counselors at the school to talk to students, teachers and staff members, Principal Hope Vrana said in a release. They will meet with students one on one, if needed.
“That support will be more important than ever in coming days, as our community grieves the loss of this little girl,” Vrana said. “Our goal here at Springdale is to listen and to reassure our students and to keep the school day as normal as we possibly can during this difficult time.”
Churchill Heights is a community of mostly one-story brick homes with shade-covered yards. A few apartment units are near the street where Faye lived. The community is near the junction of Edmund Highway, or S.C. 302, and Interstate 26, and is about 2 miles from Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
Although Faye’s relatives are not members of the Trinity Baptist Church congregation, that didn’t stop Senior Pastor Eddie Coakley from praying for them and for Faye.
After Faye was first reported missing, a vigil was held for the family at the church, which also hosted Cayce officials’ news conferences Wednesday and Thursday.
“It’s devastating,” Coakley said of the girl’s death. “Even though they weren’t members of the church, this is a tight-knit community. That’s why we’re so heartbroken.
“It’s hard to believe a little child could be playing, enjoying her day. Then something so terrible happens.”
Faye’s family reported her missing to law enforcement at about 5 p.m. Monday, and within 40 minutes, 50 emergency responders were searching for the girl near her home, Antley said.
Byron Snellgrove, director of the Cayce Department of Public Safety, said the girl’s body was found Thursday. He also announced that a male’s body was found, and authorities said the bodies were found near each other. No other details about Faye or the male, including his identity or age, were immediately available.
“It is with extremely heavy hearts we’re announcing we found a body the coroner identified as Faye Marie Swetlik,” Snellgrove said while choking back tears at a news conference Thursday.
No arrests have been made, and no suspects were identified by Snellgrove. He said he wanted to share the news of Faye’s death with the community as soon as possible.
The investigation was called fluid, but Snellgrove said he doesn’t believe the community is in any danger. A new investigation into the male’s death has been opened.
Information on any possible connection between the two deaths was not available.
Earlier in the week, Snellgrove described Faye as bubbly and energetic and said she was loved by her teacher and classmates at Springdale Elementary School. She liked fancy shoes and dresses, cats and spending time outside.
Her family issued a statement earlier in the week that said Faye “always wants to play and have fun. She’s not the type of kid that will up and walk away,” according to WHNS-TV of Greenville.
The case is considered a homicide. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the tip line at 803-205-4444.
»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 6-year-old South Carolina girl missing
The investigation has involved more than 250 officers in the Churchill Heights neighborhood.
On Thursday, a vehicle found from surveillance footage was sought by authorities, according to NBC12. The targeted vehicle present at the time of Faye’s disappearance had not been accounted for by the police.
Footage had been released of her disembarking her school bus on the day she went missing.
Faye’s disappearance was frustrating, including for a grandmother who lived with Faye. She spoke at a vigil Tuesday, describing the girl as a “selfie queen” who enjoyed Snapchat filters, dressing up and playing outside looking for rocks, according to WISNews.
Another vigil was planned for Faye on Thursday in Kershaw, South Carolina, at a local farmer’s market.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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