Anne Swaney Of ABC News Chicago Found Strangled, Possibly Sexually Assaulted, While Vacationing In Belize

Anne Swaney, a producer for ABC News in Chicago, was found murdered while vacationing in Belize.

CNN reports that the half-naked body of the 39-year-old executive producer of online operations at was found Friday morning in a river near a horse farm in western Belize.

John H. Idler, president and general manager of ABC7, said Swaney, who worked at WLS for two decades, was a pioneer in digital news reporting.

“She was a trailblazer in the digital news space and was one of our first website employees. Anne helped us evolve our business and our newsroom, but most importantly, she was a kind person who was always had a smile and a positive attitude.”

Colleagues like Rosie Powers, an ABC7 web producer, remembered the Platte City, Missouri, native as a hard-working copy editor.

“She was a light, a source of laughter and smiles, and a source of wisdom that’s really one of a kind.”

The State Department issued a statement and confirmation of the producer’s death on Saturday.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones on their loss. Our consular staff is providing all possible consular assistance.”

A family member told CNN that Swaney traveled to Nabitunich, a farm in the Cayo District of western Belize, where she was friendly with the owner of the farm.

According to police, she made plans to participate in a group horseback riding expedition on Thursday, but gave up her spot when the tour was overbooked and instead went to the Nopan River to practice yoga. Her family said they were not surprised she would give up her spot.

“Anne would do anything for anyone. She was always the first to volunteer to take on a tough job. She just did the right thing in situations.”

It was when the tour returned that Anne’s personal effects were found on the deck, Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu told CNN affiliate WLS.

“This looked suspicious, so they went to her cabin and she wasn’t there. They told the owner who called the police. The police came with their canine unit and the scent led them along the river but due to the darkness the search was called off for the night before finding her.”

Arzu said her half-naked body was found in the river face down. Her neck was covered in bruises and there was blunt-force trauma wounds to her head, which led law enforcement officials to treat the death as a homicide.

“That led us to believe that she was murdered. We also suspect that she might have been sexually violated.”

The family was notified of her death by the State Department and remains in contact during the investigation, the family member told WLS.

“There’s still a whole element of not knowing, and being so far away.”

Swaney graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in Chicago in 1998 and continued her career at WLS. Kevin Carpenter, director of digital operations, said the digital news team would struggle over the loss of their executive producer.

“Anne was our leader, Anne was our conscience. Anne wanted to make sure that every story that we put online was first and foremost right. There’s always going to be a spot there that we will miss.”

WBBM reports that there is a nationwide tourist advisory in Belize, noting an increase in robbery, mugging and rape in the country.

[Image via Twitter/ABC 7 Chicago]