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Chicago TV News Executive Found Dead In Belize Was Reportedly Strangled

"Everyone is very saddened and quite frankly we all have a hole in our hearts," the station's spokesperson said. "She was the conscience of our digital operations."

Posted on January 15, 2016, at 11:19 p.m. ET

A Chicago TV news producer who was found murdered Friday while on vacation in Belize appeared to have been strangled, according to an autopsy report.


Anne Swaney

Anne Swaney was discovered face down Friday in a river in western Belize near the border with Guatemala, the TV station where she was employed, ABC 7 Chicago, reported. Swaney's head and neck had lacerations that led police to believe she had been murdered. She was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

The 39-year-old appeared to have died from "asphyxia due to compression of the neck area," and to have suffered "blunt force traumatic injuries to the head and neck," according to a report reviewed by the Associated Press.

Swaney, a horse enthusiast and avid traveler, was staying at a farm near the town of San Jose Succotz this week when she went to a wooden deck on a river Thursday to practice yoga. People participating in a horse riding tour later discovered her things but did not see her in the area. When police arrived a search was launched.

One man was being questioned in the murder, though he said he was merely fishing in the area, and the station reported that he was not considered a prime suspect. Law enforcement also said the investigation could be complicated by the crime's proximity to Guatemala and the potential need to coordinate with police across the border.

An autopsy done by the Benque Viejo Police Department was unable to determine whether she had been sexually assaulted, NBC Chicago reported.

REMEMBERING OUR FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE: Anne Swaney was murdered while traveling in Belize:

Swaney was a "fearless world traveler" and a digital "trailblazer" at ABC 7 Chicago, where she worked as an executive producer of online operations.

Swaney joined the station 16 years ago and was one of the first digital employees, spokesperson Jayme Nicholas told BuzzFeed News. Swaney's death was met with tears, shock and disbelief, Nicholas said.

Kevin Carpenter, Swaney's boss, said she was a "journalist's journalist" and "perfectionist" who pushed the newsroom to get the facts right. He compared her role to that of a managing editor at a newspaper, with responsibilities that ranged from reading stories, working with reporters, and building the station's digital presence.

"Everyone is very saddened and quite frankly we all have a hole in our hearts," Carpenter said. "She was the conscience of our digital operations."