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"He Was Very Cold": Friends of Florida Man Allegedly Strangled to Death By Husband Speak Out Against Accused Killer

“None of us would have befriended Herb had it not been for Tim," said Candy Baker, a friend of Timothy Smith, who was allegedly killed by husband Herb Swilley. "He had a really rough personality."

By Gina Salamone
A police handout of Herbert Swilley

Friends of the Florida man allegedly murdered by his husband in order to secure a hefty insurance payout are painting the accused killer as a "rough," "cold" character who they almost immediately grew suspicious of.

Herbert Swilley, 55, is accused of fatally strangling his 59-year-old husband Timothy Floyd Smith in March and staging a crime scene to cover up his alleged involvement. Swilley was arrested on November 3 on charges of premeditated first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

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How did Herbert Swilley plead?

Swilley pleaded not guilty to murdering his husband at his arraignment on December 5, Marion County court records show.

In the months between Smith's March death, and Swilley's November arrest, friends of Smith say they noticed some peculiar behavior from his husband.

Why did Timothy Smith's friends grow suspicious of Herbert Swilley?

Less than 24 hours after Smith's body was discovered by Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies on March 25, Swilley and an adult daughter from a previous marriage were throwing out Smith's family photos and other personal belongings, friends told People.   

"I was like, ‘What is going on?,'" Tammy Warner, a friend and former colleague of Smith who was at the scene where the body was found, told the magazine. "You didn't want to believe it, but deep down in the back of your mind, you're like, ‘This is really not looking good. This is making him look like he's done something.'"

Of Smith's death, Warner told the outlet, "I still feel like I'm in shock sometimes. It just doesn't seem real.”

A police handout of Timothy Smith

The Marion County Sheriff's Office said that on March 25, at around 10:50 a.m., its deputies responded to an apartment in the central Florida city of Ocala to conduct a wellness check on Smith, who hadn't shown up to work the day before. 

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Deputies found Smith death inside the apartment with "a dark ligature mark on his neck and blunt-force trauma to his face and genitalia," the sheriff's office stated. A homicide investigation was launched, with detectives spending months gathering video surveillance, electronic evidence, and talking to those who knew Swilley and Smith.

Investigators determined that some time either on the night of March 23 or early morning hours of March 24, Smith was given a large does "of diphenhydramine (an ingredient in Benadryl and Unisom) that was 30 times higher than the normal therapeutic dose."

"Following that, Swilley murdered Timothy by choking him to death with an unknown ligature and fracturing his cervical spine," the Marion County Sheriff's Office stated. "Swilley then used his own vehicle to transport Timothy’s body from their shared residence to a nearby apartment that they maintained. Once there, Swilley placed Timothy’s body inside, staged a fake crime scene, and attempted to destroy evidence using household cleaning agents."

Investigators further alleged that Swilley then went back to their primary residence and drove Smith's vehicle to the apartment where he left his husband's body. They also claim Swilley then went back to the main residence on foot and tampered with their Ring camera application, leading to surveillance videos from that night becoming unavailable. "Then, a few hours later, Swilley drove to the landfill where he dropped off what appeared to be two carpets from their residence before going about his day," the sheriff's office stated.

A history of domestic abuse 

Investigators have alleged that Swilley had previously inflicted domestic abuse on Smith. They discovered that Smith was close to getting a new job in another county and had plans to relocate and leave Swilley. "Investigators also uncovered that Swilley stood to profit from Timothy’s death, as he was listed as the beneficiary of Timothy’s life insurance policies, which totaled $333,000," the sheriff's office said.

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Some of Smith's friends were unaware of the previous incidents of alleged abuse. “I had no idea about the abuse,” Candy Baker, a friend of Smith, told People. "Tim was so good and loving — not just the people he knew, but to strangers. Looking back, maybe it was because he lacked love at home, and that part breaks my heart."

Baker did previously have a poor opinion of Swilley though. “None of us would have befriended Herb had it not been for Tim,” Baker said. “He had a really rough personality. He was very cold.”

When does Herbert Swilley's murder trial begin?

A pretrial conference has been set for March 5, 2024, Marion County court records show. Jury selection is set for March 11, 2024.

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