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Man charged in Elkhart slaying says he met victim online

June 1, 2017

A 22-year-old man charged with murder in the slaying of a former northern Indiana city councilman told detectives he met the victim after responding to an online advertisement for casual encounters, court documents say.

Cody Garman of Elkhart told detectives the victim, 66-year-old former Goshen Councilman David Swartley, drove to Garman’s home early on May 25 and the two left together in Swartley’s car. He told them they began arguing, and Garman struck Swartley in the head with a closed fist at least two times.

First responders found Swartley in the car later that morning, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital. An autopsy showed Swartley died of massive head and facial trauma.

Garman was arrested Friday on preliminary charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery, but prosecutors over the weekend charged him with murder. He remained held without bond Wednesday pending an initial court appearance scheduled for Thursday.

Swartley was a businessman, former teacher, the founder of a Christian youth group and a two-term Goshen city councilman in the 1990s.

A search of Swartley’s phone records showed he and Garman had communicated frequently over the span of a few days before Swartley’s death, documents said.

Swartley left his Goshen home shortly after 3 a.m. on May 25, telling his roommates he would not be able to drive them around later that morning. He drove to nearby Elkhart and met Garman at his residence less than a mile from where Swartley would be found badly injured hours later, documents said.

Garman told detectives he got into Swartley’s car and the two of them drove around for a while. The argument ensued, and Garman moved Swartley to the back seat and drove the car to a wooded area just south of Elkhart, documents said. With Swartley lying still in the back seat, Garman took the keys and walked back to his residence. Garman told detectives he did not seek help for Swartley before he leaving him in the car.

A nearby resident spotted the car later that morning and reported to police that an unresponsive man was naked in the back seat.

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