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Homicide probe launched after missing mother's body found in rural Tennessee

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:18 AM EST, Tue December 13, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The deceased woman filed for divorce from her husband October 10
  • Karen Swift, 44, was last seen at her home early on the morning of October 30
  • A sheriff says the body had been "concealed (by) vegetation for some time"
  • A lawyer for the dead woman's husband calls the news "heartbreaking"

(CNN) -- Authorities have launched a homicide investigation after identifying a body found in a rural western Tennessee county as that of Karen Swift, a mother of four last seen six weeks ago, authorities said.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John Mehr said the body was discovered Saturday in Dyer County.

"It's very emotional for Mr. Swift and the family," Timothy Naifeh, a lawyer for the woman's husband, David Swift, said in a statement.

"They're asking at least for this period of time to have some privacy -- it's time for grieving and it's time for mourning. It's heartbreaking and it's very, very sad."

Karen Swift had filed for divorce from her husband on October 10. No lingering issues appeared to have been outlined in those court documents, with the couple seeming to agree on a custody arrangement and child support payments for their younger children, among other details.

Son of missing Tennessee mom speaks

It was 20 days later, at 1:30 a.m. October 30, that Swift was last seen alive outside her home, according to a previous statement from the Dyer County Sheriff's Office. Her friends had told CNN affiliate WMC that Swift, a 44-year-old mother of four, had just returned home from a Halloween party.

Her car, a 2004 white Nissan Murano, was recovered soon thereafter on a main road in northern Dyer County with a flat tire, according to police.

Her disappearance prompted a massive ground and aerial search, Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box noted in early November. The missing woman's brother, Jeffrey Johnson, told HLN's Nancy Grace on November 21 that authorities also searched the Obion River after finding some old clothes nearby.

Box said in an e-mail Monday that the body, later identified as Swift, was found "concealed ... by undergrowth and vegetation for some time" around 1:30 p.m. Saturday off Harness Road. This runs between Route 78 and Millsfield Highway about nine miles north of downtown Dyersburg.

The body was sent to the Shelby County Medical Examiner's Office in Memphis, where it was identified on Sunday as Swift using dental records, according to Box.

The sheriff wrote Monday that a homicide investigation, rather than a missing person's case, is now being conducted into the woman's death.

In addition to two older children, Swift leaves behind 6- and 9-year-old girls. Weeks ago, Johnson said those girls were "in shock" with their mother gone.

"We're doing everything we can to be together right now," Preston Swift, an older son of Swift, added November 22 to HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell. "My father and I have been doing everything we can to help (his two youngest siblings) deal with the situation."

CNN's Rich Porter and HLN's Natisha Lance contributed to this report.

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