Murder Suspect Found Dead In Jail Cell
By: Mike Stiles - Sunday, May 7, 2023

(left to right) Robert Waters and Cathy Swartz (photos courtesy of Three Rivers Police)

(THREE RIVERS) – The suspect in the 1988 murder of a Three Rivers woman is dead.

In a media release, Three Rivers Police Chief Scott Boling says he was notified on May 6 that 53 year old Robert Odell Waters was found dead in his jail cell in the Beaufort County, South Carolina Detention Center. He was awaiting extradition back to Michigan.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division was requested to conduct the in-custody death investigation.

On May 1, St. Joseph County Prosecutor David Marvin announced that Waters had been arrested April 30 and was charged with murder in the 1988 death of Cathy Sue Swartz, who was just 19 years old when she was murdered on December 2, 1988 in her Three Rivers apartment. Her 9 month old daughter Courtney was in the next room at the time of her mother’s death. Cathy was found by her fiance.

Investigators with the Three Rivers Police say Swartz fought her attacker, but was stabbed multiple times, along with being beaten and strangled. No murder weapon was found. Officers located fingerprints, blood and a footprint at the crime scene they thought belonged to the suspect, but were never able to find a match. They also found signs of attempted rape.

In 2022, the Three Rivers Police Department announced it was going to be their top priority to solve Cathy’s murder and bring justice to her family. Working with the Michigan State Police, Three Rivers Police were able to use forensic genetic genealogy to narrow down the suspect pool until they identified Waters as their main suspect.

Boling says Waters had no criminal history and was never a suspect in Cathy’s murder. When he was fingerprinted in South Carolina, one of his prints matched a bloody print found at the crime scene.

Boling says an investigative team was put together to interview Waters. The team traveled to South Carolina and made contact with him. Through their investigation, officers were able to gather enough probable cause to arrest Waters for open murder.

Boling says this is an ongoing investigation, and he is waiting for the results from the Coroner’s Office before making a statement to the media later this week.


>> News Archive