An Unexpected Killer: Kay and Bob Swartz's killer was hiding in plain sight after stabbing the couple in their home
Bob had been stabbed in his neck in his basement office, lying beside a pool of his own blood while Kay had been found out in the backyard, naked, her head split. She only had a sock on her right foot.
The brutal murders of Kay and Bob Swartz shocked the community of Cape Saint Claire in Maryland beyond measure.
No one wanted to believe that a cold calculated murderer lived in their midst and worse still, he had killed two of their friends. The couple was involved in almost all church activities, were successful, in love and it seemed like everyone knew who they were. Bob had been stabbed in his neck in his basement office, and was found lying beside a pool of his own blood, while Kay had been found out in the backyard, naked, her head split. She only had a sock on her right foot.
The police had been called in by Bob and Kay's foster son, Larry, who was 17 at the time on January 17, 1984, the next morning of the murders. The couple also had a foster daughter Ann. Larry had come to them when he was 6 years and had been a soft-spoken, shy and a very likable young man. When the investigators arrived, they found a baffling crime scene. There was blood everywhere and their only two key informants were two children, who were dealing with their parents' death. Kay couldn't have children.
The premiere episode of Oxygen's 'Unexpected Killer' deals with this infamous case.
With a daunting task at hand, the investigative team led by homicide detective Gary Barr of the Anne Arundel County started looking for evidence. The house was covered in blood, but blood mark stood out for them. There was a bloody palm print on the glass window and Kay's hands had been clean of blood. Bob had died in the basement, so he never had a chance to come up.
That palm print turned out to be the turning point in the case.
A trail of footprints from Kay's body led them to a maul used to cut wood nearby in the snow. It had hair and blood on it, but its handle had been wiped down clean. They deduced that it was the murder weapon used to hit Kay on the head. She had puncture wounds on her neck that had cut through her voice box so she was perhaps unable to scream. There was no other evidence from the scene of the crime that took investigators 15 months to crack.
On the night of the murder, Annie who was very young at the time, told investigators that she had had a dream. She had been awoken by her father's screams for help. A very tall man with curly hair had been outside when she had come out of her room to investigate. She had been told by him that it was a bad dream and she had gone back to sleep.
An estranged brother
Initially, the investigators thought that the couple had two kids. What they didn't know that they also had an estranged son, a troubled young man by the name of Michael. He had been through 6 foster homes after being abandoned by his birth mother and had been problematic right from the start. One day, when he snuck out and came home late, his parents refused to let him in. He slept at the neighbors and went to school the next day, not knowing that Kay had called the state department to say he was a runaway and that they couldn't deal with him anymore. Michael never had a home after that.
However, the two brothers had kept in touch. Larry pointed out to the investigators that Michael had been tall - almost 6'4". The investigators had found a plausible lead.
The problem was, however, that Michael had been in a state mental hospital at the time and had logs to prove it. But the security was lax - it wasn't a prison after all. He could have snuck out, killed them and gone back in. He had made threats to kill Bob earlier and had told Kay he could get away with it because he was a juvenile.
The maul found at the murder scene had been used by Michael when he had been home to chop wood as punishment - so were the murders some kind of twisted poetic justice?
The couple's controversial past
A hotline was set up for tips to aid the investigation. The investigators uncovered that Bob was a pro-life activist and had been seen in front of an abortion clinic trying to fiercely dissuade women from getting treatment. Some of them had even filed police reports.
They were also a very ambitious couple, which also translated into their parenting. The kids were pressured, especially the sons. Larry was bad academically so it was hard for him to deal with the pressure too but he had a knack for pleasing people. He was perhaps scared that the same fate that befell Michael would happen to him.
Through the time that Barr was investigating the murders, at one point, the inconsistencies in Larry's statement stuck out to him. He had told the first responders his parents were dead - when according to his police statement he had only seen the body of his mother. He couldn't have known unless he did see - so why lie? Another clue was that he claimed to have seen Kay through the window. Barr said the teen could have become confused because of shock and tried to see it through both the kitchen window and the living room window - Kay could not have been visible.
When the FBI results on the palm print came back, his suspicions were confirmed - the bloody palm print belonged to Larry.
Larry had been angry and frustrated and just couldn't deal with it anymore. He had been confined to the yard by his overprotective parents and was constantly chastised for his poor grades. On the day of the murder, he had failed a test and his mother had passed a sarcastic remark that had pushed him over the edge. Bob had heard her screams and had been killed in the process.
There have been claims of abuse at the household, emotional and physical, that the documentary misses out. There are questions left unanswered in the episode as well - why was she naked? What was the mystery of the single sock? There have been claims that Larry had taken off her clothes in a final act of humiliation and had assaulted her.
Catch Oxygen's latest crime series 'An Unexpected Killer' every Thursday at 8 pm EST.