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Crime News An Unexpected Killer

Maryland Teen Linked To Adoptive Parents’ Gruesome Slayings

Bob and Kay Swartz were violently struck down by one of their own children in the winter of 1984.

By Aly Vander Hayden
An Unexpected Killer Premieres Thursday, December 5th

While investigating the 1984 double homicide of Bob and Kay Swartz, detectives from the Anne Arundel County Police Department zeroed in on a suspect they believed could have had enough rage to execute the gruesome slayings — the couple’s adopted son, Michael Swartz. 

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Michael, 17, was “a challenge from the get-go" and constantly butted heads with his parents, who were devout Catholics and rigid disciplinarians, Kay’s nephew, John Riely, told “An Unexpected Killer,” premiering Dec. 5 at 8/7c on Oxygen

Although his siblings, Larry and Annie Swartz, 17 and 8, seemed to live up to their parents’ high moral and academic expectations, Michael floundered and rebelled. 

“I think Michael had some deviancies that probably would have precluded anybody from having any type of relationship with him on any level … He was profoundly troubled,” Riely said. 

Friends and family told investigators that Michael had once even threatened to murder his parents, telling Kay that he could “walk up to Bob and stick a knife in his back [and] kill him,” according to Riely. 

Tensions came to a head one evening when Michael snuck out to hang with friends, and his parents locked the front door and kicked him out of the house. They later called Social Services to have him placed with another family.  

Michael ultimately ended up at a reform school, and after getting into trouble there, he was sent to a state mental hospital for evaluation. On the evening of Jan. 16, 1984, hospital logs indicate, Michael was inside a locked ward and nowhere near his parents’ house, where Rob and Kay were stabbed and axed to death. 

Autopsy results showed that Kay had been stabbed seven times around her neck, and that her skull had been cracked open with a splitting maul. Ray had been stabbed 17 times, and both his right and left carotid arteries were severed. 

Kay was discovered outside in a pile of snow, completely nude, apart from a sock on her right foot, while Ray was found on the floor of his home office. 

The maul used to strike down Kay was found at the crime scene, but no useful fingerprints could be lifted from its handle. A bloody palm print was recovered from the sliding glass door that led out to Kay’s remains, however, and neither victim had blood on their palms, leading detectives to believe it could have come from the killer. 

Investigators sent the print to the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for analysis, and the test returned a match for one of the couple’s adopted children — just not the one they expected.  

The bloody palm print belonged to Larry, not Michael, and his motive for the brutal killings blindsided both investigators and the extended Swartz family. 

To hear the whole story and find out what happened to the three Swartz children, catch “An Unexpected Killer,” premiering Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8/7c on Oxygen