He sounded like a man who was still grieving. “I just want to wish you Happy Anniversary. To my very loving husband,” Herbert Swilley wrote on Facebook on August 8, dedicating the post to his late spouse of nearly eight years, Timothy Floyd Smith, who was brutally murdered in March. “I miss you every day and wish you were here. Life isn’t the same without you.”
The same day, Swilley was named as a suspect in his husband’s killing. And on November 3, he was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Now, as Florida authorities move forward with their case, devastating details have emerged — including a possible motive: money. In the wake of Smith’s death, Swilley started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for his spouse’s funeral and a “celebration of life” event, bringing in roughly $2,200 of his $7,500 goal. But according to investigators, Swilley — who detectives say subjected Smith to domestic violence — may have had a far bigger payday in mind: Smith’s $333,000 life insurance policy, which named his husband as a beneficiary.
The murder was premeditated and violent. Investigators in Florida’s Marion County Sheriff’s Office reveal that Smith, 59, was drugged with 30 times the usual therapeutic dose of diphenhydramine, which is commonly found in medications like Benadryl and Unisom, on March 23 or 24. They believe Swilley, 55, who owned a handyman service, killed him and then drove his body to an apartment they maintained in Ocala, Florida, where Swilley staged a crime scene. Smith’s lifeless body was discovered on March 25 on a bed “naked from the waist down” with “blunt trauma injuries to the face and possibly to the genitals,” authorities say, after Smith failed to show up to his job as executive director of a senior living community. (At the time of his death, he was planning to take a new job in another county and move there without his husband.) An autopsy concluded he died from asphyxia — there was a ligature mark on his neck — and a cervical spine fracture.
Detectives allege Swilley tried to cover his tracks by destroying evidence with household cleaners, discarding two carpets at a landfill and removing videos from the couple’s doorbell camera. “My brother [was] not a small man. He was tall, and he was strong, and I can’t imagine what he went through,” Smith’s sister, Sandy Reils, says. “It breaks my heart to think of it. That’s the worst part.”
She says there were red flags — including Swilley’s failure to call her after the murder, which she learned about on social media. “Just from the first initial conversation I had with him, he changed his story three times,” she says. When she learned of Swilley’s arrest, she felt relief. “I just started crying and thanking Jesus, because there have been so many prayers going up that we get justice for Tim.”