The Disappearance of Marilyn McCown

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EARLY LIFE:

Marilyn “Niqui” McCown was born on January 6, 1973. Growing up in the midwestern city of Richmond, Indiana, she was the youngest of 10 children.

When she was 19 years old, she gave birth to her daughter, Payton, with then boyfriend Steven Johnston. While she and Steven broke up, they shared their time with Payton, and Niqui viewed her daughter as the centre of her world.

To support herself and Payton, Niqui worked at the Montgomery Education and Pre-Release Center in Dayton, Ohio. Starting there in 1994, she began as a guard before moving her way up to head accountant. The job also helped to build her interest of working in law enforcement. She had a dream of becoming either a FBI agent or US Marshal and was thus taking criminal justice courses at Sinclair Community College in Dayton.

In 2001, 28-year-old Niqui was looking forward to marrying her fiancé, Bobby Webster. The pair, who had dated whilst in high school, had gotten engaged in 1998 after Bobby had returned from living in California, and Niqui was excited about the upcoming wedding.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

On July 22, 2001, Niqui attended church with Bobby before heading home to run errands. While Bobby would be heading to the mall to help his cousin get his tuxedo sized, she decided to do laundry. So she dropped Payton off at her parents’ house before heading to Richmond Coin Laundry, located in the vicinity of the 1100 block of south E Street.

While her clothes were drying, Niqui once again dropped by her parents’ house, where she mentioned to her mother that two men were harassing her. According to her mother, she appeared agitated, but decided to return to the laundromat, instead of using her parents’ dryer.

Upon Bobby returning home from the fitting, he saw his fiancé had yet to return home. Thinking she was running a bit late, he decided to watch television until she returned.

DISAPPEARANCE:

When 6:00pm rolled around, Niqui still hadn’t returned home, which worried Bobby. Wondering if anyone else in the family had seen his fiancé, he called her sisters, Michelle and Tammie, but neither had seen her since she’d stopped by their parents’ house earlier in the day.

Niqui was late picking up Payton from her parents’ house, but her mother wasn’t too worried, thinking she might have gone to work, which she was known to do on a spur of the moment. However, as the night progressed and no one heard from Niqui, the family began to share in Bobby’s worry.

Around 10:00pm, the family took to the highway and made their way to Dayton, believing Niqui may have gotten into a car accident. They also called local hospitals, but could come up with no leads.

At 2:00am on July 23, Niqui’s dad insisted the family go to police to file a missing persons report. However, the Richmond Police Department saw no reason to be concerned, as Niqui was an adult and there were no indications of any trouble.

SEARCH:

Niqui’s family searched through her and Bobby’s apartment, where they discovered she’d left behind her purse and her ID when she had gone to the laundromat. They also obtained footage from the deli located near Richmond Coin Laundry, which showed Niqui making a purchase the day before. It didn’t give any indication that anything was wrong.

Investigators got involved in the case upon Niqui missing a shift at the Montgomery Education and Pre-Release Center. She rarely missed work, so this struck both them and her family as extremely concerning. They checked hotels and the residences near the laundromat, but could come up with nothing concrete.

Police looked into her mother’s concerns about the men who had been harassing her daughter, but, when asked, no one at the laundromat had seen anything suspicious. They then looked through Niqui’s bank account and cellphone records, but they didn’t reveal anything, as neither had been used since her disappearance.

While the police ground search was occurring, Niqui’s family knocked on doors and handed out flyers with her information.

Not long after police got involved, a helicopter search was done of Richmond and Dayton, in the hopes of finding her 1990 GMC Jimmy 4×4, which was missing along with Niqui. However, their search failed to turn up the vehicle.

One of the first persons of interest in the case was Bobby, as his actions after his fiancé’s disappearance had struck investigators as unusual. The day after she went missing, he called Sinclair Community College to ask for her unused tuition back, after which he was reported to have become irate upon being told her education was being paid for by her employer. He also tried to return their wedding rings, but wasn’t able to because they had been purchased under Niqui’s name, and had cancelled the wedding venue in order to get the deposit back.

While police and Niqui’s family saw these actions as suspicious, Bobby maintains he was only doing them in order to raise money to help in the search for his fiancé. He had wanted to purchase a cellphone and use the remaining money to help fund a reward.

Police brought him in for a polygraph test, which showed signs of deception. However, as there was no evidence of a crime having been committed or anything linking him to Niqui’s disappearance, they could not proceed further. However, as the case progressed, it was publicly announced that Bobby was no longer considered a person of interest, as another suspect had come to light.

Bobby feels the focus on him was a waste of time and has shared his doubts that the Richmond Police Department will be able to solve the case. Investigators’ focus on him also led to friction between him and the McCown family, with them freezing him out at the time he was brought in for questioning.

As the months went on, the McCown family began to feel frustration over the lack of progress made in Niqui’s case, accusing the police of not doing their job. As such, they started their own search efforts, which led to investigators feeling they were overstepping their boundaries. As such, they threatened members of the family with arrest if they kept up their actions.

At 7:30am on November 3, 2001, the Richmond Police Department received a call from the Dayton Police Department saying that Niqui’s vehicle had been found in the parking lot of the Meadows of Catalpa apartment complex, located in Dayton. It was found with her laundry folded in the back, and when towed back to Indiana for examination, held no evidence and showed no signs of a break-in or a struggle.

The apartment complex is where Steven Johnston lived, so he was brought in for a polygraph test, which he passed. He also offered up his DNA. Given his cooperation and the evidence they have, police feel the vehicle’s position was merely a coincidence and Steven was not involved in his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance.

Following the discovery of the vehicle, investigators began looking into a co-worker of Niqui’s named Tommy Swint. He lived about a 1/4 mile away from the apartment complex and was known to have had a complicated relationship with Niqui. They had conflicting ideas of their friendship and Niqui had experienced violence at the hands of Swint. Given all this, he was named a person of interest.

Not long after this, it was discovered Niqui had made a phone call to a female co-worker on July 22 to say she would be picking up vitamins at a pharmacy located near the Meadows of Catalpa.

On November 5, 2002, Niqui’s sisters travelled to New York, where they shared their story on a talk show. While there, a psychic told them she had been murdered, which prompted police to search areas around Richmond Coin Laundry. However, nothing was found.

In 2004, the family worked with a missing persons organization to raise a $100,000 reward for information leading to Niqui’s return. It had been hoped that the money would prompt someone to come forward, but no leads were called in before the reward expired.

On the fifth anniversary of Niqui’s disappearance, a vigil was held for her at the laundromat.

On August 30, 2007, detectives received news that Swint had been hired as a police officer in Trotwood, Ohio. The news shocked both them and Niqui’s family. Richmond police informed the Trotwood Police Department that he was a person of interest in their investigation and moved to have him dismissed. As such, Swint was told to either resign or have the dismissal process started. He chose to step down after less than two months on the force.

Upon quitting, Swint sued both the city of Richmond and its police department, citing he was never told that he was a person of interest in Niqui’s disappearance. Richmond police insisted he was aware and the lawsuits were ultimately dismissed.

On November 29, 2007, upon seeing news coverage of Swint’s lawsuits, an anonymous call was made to the Dayton Police Department, saying they should look into Swint in connection with an unsolved murder from the early 1990s. On December 17, 1991, a tree-trimming crew discovered the partially nude body of Tina Marie Ivery, a prostitute who had been beaten and strangled before being wrapped in a quilt and placed in a pile of trash on Dayton Liberty Road, near Calumet Lane.

At the time, police were unable to come up with any suspects. Through stains found on the quilt, they were able to create a DNA profile, but were never able to make a match. Upon receiving the tip, Richmond police provided Swint’s DNA, which they had obtained during the lawsuits, to Dayton detectives and it came back as a match. As such, they started to re-examine evidence to try and place him at the scene of the crime. This re-examination led to the discovery of a palm print on a piece of tape.

On November 17, 2009, Dayton detectives travelled to Russell County, where Swint had since relocated, in order to obtain his fingerprints and conduct an interview with him. While he denied involvement in the murder, subsequent analysis of his fingerprints matched the print found on the tape.

On February 3, 2010, a grand jury indicted Swint for Ivery’s murder and Dayton police prepared to arrest him in Alabama. However, as they approached his house, they heard a gunshot and later found him dead of an apparent suicide.

Given Swint’s actions and the evidence they’ve collected, investigators feel Swint was involved in Niqui’s disappearance. They are currently trying to get a co-worker with whom he was romantically involved with to speak with them, as they believe he might have told her something of importance.

The Richmond Police Department says they’re still actively working on the case.

THEORIES:

1) The prominent theory in this case is that Tommy Swint was involved in Niqui’s disappearance, a theory held by both investigators and Niqui’s family. Given his actions before his death and current evidence, it’s believed he came into contact with her at some point around the time she went missing, after which something transpired.

2) There are some who still believe Bobby to have been involved in his fiancé’s disappearance. They cite his actions after she went missing as evidence of this. However, police have stated he is no longer a person of interest.

AFTERMATH:

As Payton was only 9 years old at the time Niqui went missing, she was raised by her grandmother and her aunts. She has since had a child of her own and holds out hope her mother will be found.

Niqui’s father has since passed away.

As the years have gone by and suspicion has shifted away from him, Bobby has once again become close with Niqui’s family, especially with Payton. She says she views him as a stepfather of sorts.

Every year on the anniversary of Niqui’s disappearance, her family gathers outside the laundromat to hold a vigil and mark the date.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Marilyn “Niqui” McCown went missing from Richmond, Indiana on July 22, 2001. She was 28 years old and was last seen wearing a bright pink and purple floral swimsuit top, diamond earrings, dark-coloured shorts and a white gold bracelet. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’2″ and weighed approximately 115 pounds. She has light brown hair and brown eyes, with a scar above her left eye, one on top of her head and another on her lower left leg.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 46 years old.

If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Richmond Police Department at 765-983-7247.

Image Credit: Missing Persons of America

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