The family of a missing Lehi man finally has closure — after essentially solving the case themselves.
The remains of Daniel James Swindler, 38, were found on Oct. 20, 2010, about when he went missing, in the Lake Murray spillway in South Carolina, according to The Greenville News, a local newspaper.
It appears he died while hiking alone in rough terrain, and was partially submerged in water, so an accidental injury or drowning seems the most likely scenario, according to online posts from his family.
Emergency responders had to remove his body using a helicopter, since there was no way to reach him by vehicle and it was too difficult to carry the body out, said Lexington County, S.C. Sheriff’s Major John Allard.
But the body was not identified until recently, when his sister recognized the backpack, belt and forensic facial reconstruction posted on the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Unidentified Remains website, the article adds.
"I found myself saying, ‘No, no, no’ when I saw the thumbnail image. … I couldn’t click fast enough," Lisa Campbell wrote on her blog Monday.
Swindler left Utah in August 2010 without giving any indication of where he was going, only telling his roommate, "I’m going to hit the road and see where life takes me," according to a Monday entry on Campbell’s blog.
All of Swindler’s siblings made an effort to find him, such as calling mental hospitals and creating a Facebook page about his disappearance.
In January 2011, another of Swindler’s sisters got into his email account and discovered a reservation for the Extended Stay America Hotel in Columbia, S.C., according to Campbell’s blog entry. He had not logged into the email account for several months.
As big a lead as it was, time went on without further answers. "We had fewer and fewer options, so we started to believe that we’d never know what happened to Daniel," the blog entry reads.
But a week and a half ago, Campbell was lying in bed and suddenly thought to look up unidentified bodies in South Carolina, according to the entry.
"I had searched for this before, and so had other family members, so I was skeptical about doing it again, especially right then," Campbell wrote. "I tried to dismiss the thought because it was 11:30 [p.m.] and I wanted to sleep. I figured I’d do it in the morning, but the urge to do it right then was strong. I finally gave in and climbed back out of bed."
One Google search and one link later, she found a 3-D rendering of Swindler’s face on the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s Unidentified Remains website. She then realized the belt that was found with the body, pictured on the site, is the same one Swindler is seen wearing in the photo the family posted to the Facebook page about his disappearance.
She compared the location of the Extended Stay America Hotel to the spillway: only 10 miles apart and along the same river.
She called South Carolina.
The family waited for several days as the Lexington County Coroner worked to confirm the body’s identity. Before long, the coroner concluded that the remains were Swindler’s by comparing dental X-rays and dental records, according to the Greenville newspaper.
"We are so grateful to have closure, though the sadness of losing a loved one in such a lonely circumstance is truly heartbreaking for us," the Facebook post reads.
His funeral is tentatively set for the last weekend in October, according to the Facebook page.
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