Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA


February 28, 2008

Arrest made in 11-year-old Turner County murder case

Turner County Sheriff Randy Kendrick says Wideman case is ongoing and not cold

By Angie Thompson

ASHBURN — Jeffrey Lynn Speck was a long-haul truck driver in 1997 when road workers found the stabbed body of Michaella Swaney dumped off I-75 in Turner County on Feb. 11, 1997. He would have gotten away with the crime, cold case investigators said, had it not been for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

The journey that culminated in Speck’s Turner County grand jury indictment this month for the murder was a difficult one for several reasons. Swaney, who was 32 at the time of her death, was hitchhiking from Florida to her native Ohio.

“Someone who hitchhikes is at high risk for becoming a victim,” said Gary Rothwell, the Agent in Charge at Perry’s GBI office. “It also cuts down on the leads when there are no local connections to the victim. We usually begin by questioning people who are close to the victim.”

GBI Special Agent Ben Collins, also of the Perry office, has worked with Turner County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Steve Mauldin and Turner County Sheriff Randy Kendrick on the case. They gathered at the Turner County Civic Center Wednesday to announce the arrest. Initially, GBI Special Agents Bobby Young and Stephen Tinsley and then-Turner County Sheriff Donnie Sellers and Chief Deputy Mike Meeks were listed as contacts for people to call with information.

After Swaney’s body was found, evidence at the scene was gathered and an autopsy confirmed that she had been stabbed multiple times. The evidence collected also included seminal fluid taken from her body and stored with other case evidence. Her identity was revealed when fingerprints taken post-mortem matched those on file following a prior arrest.

The mug shot taken at her arrest provided a photograph of her to include in a flyer investigators created and distributed to law enforcement agencies, post offices and other public locations from Georgia to south Florida.

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