Episode 001: Faye Marie Swetlik

July 19, 2021

On the afternoon of February 10, 2020, six-year-old Faye Marie Swetlik got off the school bus in her neighborhood of Churchill Heights. An hour later, she was nowhere to be found. Officers from multiple agencies would search the area for days… What happened to Faye?

Episode Media
Faye Marie Swetlik (CNN)
Faye Swetlik getting off her school bus on February 10, 2020 (City of Cayce)
Coty Scott Taylor (Facebook)
Surveillance footage showing what is believed to be Coty Taylor burying Faye’s body. (City of Cayce)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome to the first episode of Bite-Sized Crime! I’m so glad you chose this podcast for your true crime fix. So let’s get into it!

For this first episode, I’m sharing a tragic story from my own backyard. This case rocked our community last year and has stayed with us ever since. Be forewarned – this podcast discusses some disturbing topics. Listener discretion is advised.

On the afternoon of February 10, 2020, six-year-old Faye Marie Swetlik got off the school bus in her neighborhood of Churchill Heights in Cayce, South Carolina. She said hello to her mother and went outside to play in the front yard like she did most days. However, about an hour later, her mother, Selena Collins, noticed that Faye was no longer in the front yard. She immediately started knocking on neighbors’ doors and calling friends just in case any of them had seen Faye. Several neighbors joined Selena in searching the nearby area, calling out for Faye as they walked through the neighborhood.

Finally, after an hour of frantic searching, Selena called 911. She told the dispatcher that Faye was wearing a black shirt with a neon design, a flowered skirt, and polka-dotted rain boots. The dispatcher told Selena to stay in her front yard and that a police K-9 unit was on its way.

Within minutes, over 50 police officers, firefighters, and first responders were on the scene, interviewing neighbors and setting up a grid search. They even asked neighbors to check their home security videos. By 6pm, the Cayce Department of Public Safety had reached out to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the FBI for assistance in locating Faye. Search dogs and helicopters from multiple agencies were deployed, and a Be On the Lookout alert for Faye was issued. She was also entered into the National Crime Information DataBase as a missing child, and her picture was plastered all over social media and local news stations. Unfortunately, her situation did not qualify for an Amber Alert.

Officers shut down the entire Churchill Heights neighborhood and checked every car that came in or out. By this time, hundreds of people had joined the search, and a command center was set up in city hall. However, night fell with no sign of Faye. Chief Byron Snellgrove of the Cayce Department of Public Safety told news outlets that there didn’t appear to be any evidence of an abduction at that time.

The next morning, February 11th, a hotline number was set up, which officers would later say received hundreds of tips. Every house and car in Faye’s neighborhood was searched. Chief Snellgrove said that their goal was to speak with every person in the neighborhood no matter how long it took. It was an exhaustive search, but Faye was still nowhere to be found.

Faye had now been missing for over 24 hours. Faye’s family released a statement, saying, “Faye is a bubbly and happy little girl. She always wants to play and have fun. She’s not the type of kid that will up and walk away. Her mom was very attentive in watching Faye. Faye pays attention to her surroundings. Her grandmother is very distraught about what has happened because they are very close. We just want to find Faye and bring her home.”

On Wednesday, February 12th, law enforcement expanded the boundaries of their search, including the local landfill. They begged the public to call in with any information.

The next day, Thursday, February 13th, was trash pickup day in the Churchill Heights neighborhood. Officers followed the garbage trucks and sifted through every single trash bin before the contents were dumped. Around 10am, officers found something significant – in a trash bin just one street over from Faye’s house – a single polka-dotted rain boot and a soup ladle filled with freshly dug dirt.

Chief Snellgrove immediately set up a grid search in the wooded area between the neighborhood and a local auto parts store. There, he made the heartbreaking discovery – Faye’s body in a shallow grave. Her polka-dotted rain boot and floral skirt were poking out through the dirt, and a plastic trash bag was wrapped around her neck.

In a brief press conference later that day, Chief Snellgrove stated, “It is with extremely heavy hearts we announce we have found the body of Faye Marie Swetlik.” Then, he stunned reporters by announcing that the body of an adult male was found in the same neighborhood that very same morning. However, Chief Snellgrove would not give further details, saying only that that case had just begun.

Obviously, the community was shocked and heartbroken, and there were more questions than answers. What had happened to Faye? Why had it taken so long for her to be found? Who was this unidentified man, and how was he connected? Let’s go back a few days and put together some of the pieces of this puzzle.

On the afternoon of February 12th, while canvassing the Churchill Heights neighborhood, officers knocked on the door of 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor. Although Taylor wasn’t home at the time, his roommate was cooperative and let the officers look around inside. The officers noticed a full bag of laundry in a closet under the stairs, but didn’t think it was suspicious – after all, this was the home of two single men who probably had lots of laundry to do. The officers returned to the house later that day when Taylor was home. When they asked him where he was on the day Faye disappeared, he said he was home sleeping. He let them search the house again, but they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

Fast forward to the next day, when Faye’s polka-dotted rain boot was found in Taylor’s trash can. At the same time Chief Snellgrove was discovering Faye’s body, officers were calling in another discovery – the body of Coty Scott Taylor. It appeared that Taylor had taken his own life.

Over the next year and half, details about the investigation were scarce. I remember regularly checking local news outlets for information in Faye’s case. Then, on July 2nd of this year, the Cayce Department of Public Affairs released a detailed report including surveillance footage, concluding that Coty Scott Taylor was the sole perpetrator in the disappearance and death of Faye Marie Swetlik.

Officials believe that Taylor abducted Faye from her front yard while she played that Monday afternoon. Faye was a friendly, trusting child, and it’s entirely possible that Taylor could have lured her away quite easily without her mother noticing. She may have even recognized Taylor from the neighborhood and been convinced to follow him. According to the autopsy report, Faye died of asphyxiation within hours of her disappearance. Taylor had strangled her and hidden her body in the same laundry bag that officers had seen during their first search of his house – we know this because the inside of the bag tested positive for Faye’s DNA. In a heartbreaking twist, it’s believed that Faye’s body was actually in that closet under the stairs when officers were questioning Taylor.

In an interview with police a few days after Faye’s body was found, Taylor’s roommate said that Taylor had been spraying air freshener around the house, something he considered unusual, but he figured that Taylor was just trying to cover up the smell of marijuana since there was such a heavy police presence in the neighborhood. He later realized that Taylor was most likely trying to cover up the smell of a dead body.

On the morning of February 13th, the day Faye’s body was found, surveillance video from the auto parts store shows a light in the woods around 1:00 in the morning. Officials believe that Taylor removed Faye’s body from his house and carried her into the woods. Around 7am, Taylor caught a ride share to the local Walmart where he purchased potting soil and gardening supplies. The ride share driver later told police that Taylor was acting strange and made him uncomfortable. As they pulled into the Churchill Heights neighborhood and saw the police surrounding the area, the driver asked Taylor if he knew Faye Swetlik. Taylor said, “I don’t know… I never met her before.”

At 7:24am, cameras show a dark hooded figure emerging from the area near Taylor’s home carrying what looks to be a bag of potting soil. The figure dumps the soil onto the ground and spreads it around before heading back in the direction of Taylor’s home.

Three hours later, as officers swarmed the wooded area, police discovered Taylor on his back porch, bleeding from a self-inflicted knife wound. The officers on the scene were unable to revive him.

The police report included multiple DNA matches linking Taylor to Faye’s murder. In addition to Faye’s DNA being found inside the laundry bag, the soup ladle found in the trash bin also contained DNA matching both Taylor and Faye. In my opinion, the saddest piece of evidence was Taylor’s DNA found under Faye’s fingernails, possibly indicating that she tried to fight back.

Unfortunately, police never revealed a motive for Faye’s murder. Maybe there really wasn’t one. Taylor was a loner; people who knew him said he had, “a negative outlook on life.” Taylor described himself as an incel and often engaged in online groups where misogyny and hatred were the norm. Taylor had absolutely no connection to Faye other than being her neighbor. It’s possible that Faye just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But let’s not dwell on Coty Taylor. Instead, let’s think about the sweet little girl who left behind a loving family. Faye Marie Swetlik was a ray of sunshine for everyone who knew her. She was described as bright and bubbly, friendly to everyone. The playground at her elementary school now has a brand new buddy bench dedicated to Faye, where children can sit together and make new friends, just like Faye would have.