A child's polka dot boot and a soup ladle with fresh dirt on it led police to the body of a 6-year-old kidnapping and homicide victim, South Carolina police said Tuesday.
First grader Faye Marie Swetlik, who was found last week near her home in Cayce, a suburb of Columbia, died by asphyxiation at the hands of a neighbor, officials revealed.
"Faye Swetlik's death did not occur at the location where her body was discovered," Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher told reporters.
"We have concluded that Faye's death was a homicide and took place within only a few hours after she was abducted. The cause of Faye's death has been ruled asphyxiation."
She was killed by her neighbor, previously identified as Coty Scott Taylor, 30, police said.
"Evidence leads us to believe the deceased abducted and killed 6-year-old Faye Marie Swetlik, and it appears that he is the sole perpetrator of this crime," Cayce Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said.
Faye had been reported missing Feb. 10, and Taylor was found dead on his patio shortly after the girl's body was discovered Thursday, police said.
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The big break in the case came moments earlier, when police, following garbage trucks in the Churchill Heights neighborhood, found the boot and the ladle in Taylor's trash, officials said.
"I happened to be on scene at that time. Upon seeing these items, I called for assistance to do an additional and immediate grid search of the areas" behind the nearby homes of Faye and Taylor, Snellgrove said.
"As assistance was coming, I went into the woods behind the townhomes, and just before 10:30 a.m., I located the body of Faye Swetlik."
Moments later, "police were notified of a residence, that there was a man bleeding on the back patio," Snellgrove said.
"Officers immediately went to his aid and found a deceased white male," previously identified as Taylor, he said.
Faye was last seen around 3:45 p.m. on that Monday afternoon playing outside her family's home, and her mother called 911 about an hour later.
Taylor had been interviewed in his home by police Wednesday but gave no hint that he was connected to Faye's disappearance, police said.
"He was cooperative and gave consent to agents to look through the house," Snellgrove said. "Those agents did not see anything that alerted them to believe that he had knowledge or was in any way involved in Faye's disappearance."