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The Villages
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Husband arrested in murder of gay activist Timothy Smith

The husband of gay activist Timothy Smith has been charged with his murder.

Smith and Herbert Swilley were married in a ceremony in 2015 in The Villages.

Swilley was booked Friday morning at the Marion County Jail on a charge of first degree murder.

Tim Smith and Herbert Swilley were married in 2015 in The Villages
Tim Smith, left, and Herbert Swilley were married in 2015 in The Villages.

Marion County sheriff’s deputies responded at 10:50 a.m. March 25 to an apartment, located at 1980 SE 40th Street Road, Ocala, to conduct a well-being check on the 59-year-old Brookdale senior living executive, who did not show up for work on March 24. When deputies made entry to the residence, they located Smith, who was dead. He had a dark ligature mark on his neck and blunt-force trauma to his face and genitalia. Major Crimes Detective Daniel Pinder responded to initiate a homicide investigation. For the next several months, Pinder investigated the case, gathering video surveillance, electronic evidence, and speaking to people who knew Swilley and Smith.

Through the investigation, it was established that on the night of March 23 or in the early morning hours of March 24, Smith was dosed with a large amount of diphenhydramine (an ingredient in Benadryl and Unisom) that was 30 times higher than the normal therapeutic dose. Following that, Swilley murdered Smith by choking him to death with an unknown ligature and fracturing his cervical spine. Swilley then used his own vehicle to transport Smith’s body from their shared residence to a nearby apartment that they maintained.  Once there, Swilley placed Smith’s body inside, staged a fake crime scene, and attempted to destroy evidence using household cleaning agents. Swilley returned to their residence and then drove Smith’s vehicle to the apartment where he left it. Swilley then walked back to their residence where he accessed their Ring camera application; investigators later learned that surveillance videos from that night were not present. Then, a few hours later, Swilley drove to the landfill where he dropped off what appeared to be two carpets from their residence before going about his day.

The investigation revealed that Smith had previously suffered domestic abuse by Swilley. It was also learned that Smith was close to securing a new job in another county and was planning to relocate there without Swilley. Investigators also uncovered that Swilley stood to profit from Smith’s death, as he was listed as the beneficiary of Smith’s life insurance policies, which totaled $333,000.

Initially, Swilley pretended to be cooperative with law enforcement and provided them with a preliminary statement but the investigation revealed that many of the things Swilley told investigators were false, self-serving, or contradicted by other evidence. When detectives sought to reinterview Swilley about these discrepancies, Swilley’s attorney indicated that he would only cooperate if he was provided with immunity from prosecution for Smith’s murder.

Tim Smith hold the rainbow flag during a celebration at Lake Sumter Landing
Tim Smith holds the rainbow flag during a celebration in 2015 at Lake Sumter Landing.

Earlier this week, a warrant was obtained for Swilley’s arrest. He is being held without bond.

Smith was well known in The Villages where he worked in senior care. He was also an outspoken activist with regard to gay rights and performed as a drag queen.

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