An Unexpected Killer: The tragic murders of pro-life Catholic couple Robert and Kathryn Swartz found butchered in their home

So who killed the Swartz? Was it the abandoned son Michael angry at the couple for throwing him out after promises of a forever home? Or was it Larry, tired of the constant pressure to walk the line?


                            An Unexpected Killer: The tragic murders of pro-life Catholic couple Robert and Kathryn Swartz found butchered in their home

Lawrence Swartz was a 6-year-old orphan when he found his new home. After spending most of his life in foster homes, Larry's mother is said to have been a waitress in New Orleans. Robert "Bob" Swartz, 52, and Kathryn Anne "Kay" Sullivan, 43 were a pro-life, devout Catholic couple who ran "marriage encounters" in Maryland who couldn't have children of their own. They were to adopt two more kids after Larry, but he was their first child and Kay, his sixth mother. 

Favorite child 

Larry was their absolute favorite. He wasn't the brightest student but was a soccer star at Broadneck High School, and both his parents had been very ambitious. They also provided him and Michael, who was elder to Larry by 6 months, with a good education. These ambitions caused tensions in the family, especially because Michael was really bright academically. However, he was immature emotionally, had anger issues and did not listen to his parents.

They later found out that Larry had a learning disability and he was placed in a special education class. He wasn't a rebel in any way, was quiet and had mild manners. He remained their favorite son. Then, the couple adopted 4-year-old Anne from South Korea, after her parents abandoned her. The boys were 13 years old at the time. Soon, she became the favorite child.

Rules and abuse

Their house rules were rigid, and as the boys grew up into their teens, things escalated. Moreover, the two weren't really great at parenting skills. They were subjected to constant criticism and scoldings and punishments that got worse as things in school went downhill. Soon, they were being physically abused. 

Larry wouldn't get the beatings as much as Michael did, but he was under a lot of pressure to be the perfect child, especially because his parents had pinned all of Michael's hopes on him. Then one day, Michael sneaked out of his home and when his parents found out, he was thrown out and abandoned. They reported him as a runaway. 

Now Michael and Larry had been close and continued to keep in touch. He was angry at what had happened but also realized the same fate could befall him. So he tried harder, but no matter what he did, it just wasn't cutting it. They scrutinized him even more, with Michael gone. In a bid to make them happy, he said he wanted to become a priest. The plan obviously backfired and Larry was failing his grades. He was 17 and had started hiding booze in the bedroom to help him cope. He still tried to be as good as he could.

The murder 

January 17, 1984, a 911 call shook the Anne Arundel County police department. Around 7 am, the Cape St. Claire emergency workers were rushed to the Swartz home. Annie and Larry were found with their heads in their hands, not sure what to do. Bob was dead in his basement office, his body sprawled on the floor. He had cuts on his chest and arms. The mother, Kathryn was found naked in the backyard, with the exception of a sock on one foot. Her body had been partially scalped and her neck had some deep cuts. Her skull was split after being hit with a wooden maul.

Larry told the emergency respondents that his sister had woken him up after she couldn't find their parents. Then, he had spotted Kay outside the window in the backyard and they had immediately called for help. 

So who killed the Swartz? Was it the abandoned son Michael angry at the couple for throwing him out after promises of a forever home? Or was it Larry, tired of the constant pressure to walk the line? Investigators said it was a suspect "no one saw coming."

Find out in Oxygen's latest crime series 'An Unexpected Killerpremiering on Thursday, December 5 at 8 pm EST. 

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