Suspect Arrested in 1988 Cold Case Murder of Single Mom While 9-Month-Old Daughter Was in the Next Room: Cops

Cathy Swartz, left, was murdered in her apartment in 1988. Robert Odell Waters, right, was arrested over the weekend.
Cathy Swartz, left, was murdered in her apartment in 1988. Robert Odell Waters, right, was arrested over the weekend.Handout

Michigan authorities worked relentlessly over the years to identify a suspect, and the arrest over the weekend is thanks to recent advancements made in DNA technology.

Cathy Swartz was 19 years old when she was brutally murdered in her Michigan apartment in December 1988 while her 9-month-old daughter was in the next room. Last weekend, more than 35 years after the young mom’s killing, a South Carolina man was arrested in connection with her death.

Robert Odell Waters, 53, was arrested Sunday in Beaufort County and currently remains behind bars, according to jail records as of Tuesday morning. Waters has been charged with open murder, authorities said.

“While nothing can replace the loss of Cathy Swartz, and the impact this senseless tragedy has had, we hope the identification and arrest of a suspect will bring some long-awaited closure to her family and friends,” Chief Scott Boling of the Three Rivers Police Department said in a statement.

Authorities, alongside Cathy’s dad, David Swartz and Cathy’s daughter, Courtney, have been pressing for justice all these years. “The worst thing for me is the why: why did it have to happen?” David said in a 2014 interview with WSBT.

Cathy, a single mother, was found dead in her Riverside Townhouse apartment in early December, 1988. She had been brutally beaten, strangulated and stabbed multiple times according to a statement.

“It was indicated that she fought her attacker, however, was overcome,” Boling said. “While this horrific act was being committed, her nine-month-old daughter, Courtney, was in the next room.”

Earlier investigations revealed that the assailant likely cleaned up and changed clothes inside the apartment after her murder, and was at one point barefoot. “It is not summer time so you are not going to come barefoot … Did you take the footwear off and change it? Did you use some of Cathy's clothes? Her boyfriend's clothes?” Mike Mohney of the Three Rivers Police Department, who was one of the first on the scene, told WSBT in 2014.

South Bend Tribune

Evidence like blood, fingerprints and footprints were left behind at the scene, but it is only due to recent DNA advancements and a partnership with the Cold Case Project at Western Michigan University that authorities were able to identify a suspect that matched.

“These students are our future of law enforcement,” Boling said.

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