Murder of 83-year-old Peggy Swann by David Barksdale spotlighted on The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead

Peggy Swann and David Barksdale
David Barksdale seen with Peggy Swann, whom he later murdered. Pic Credit: Family photo

Peggy Swann was 83 years of age when she was brutally beaten to death in her own home, Coroner Graham Hetrick is tasked with giving her a voice beyond the grave in The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead.

June 26, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the body of Swann was found in the basement of her home. An examination revealed that she’d been dead at least two weeks, with her body being badly decomposed.

Police had been called to the house by one of Swann’s roommates, who told officers he’d detected a foul odor from the basement. The man was David Barksdale, who had previously been in a relationship with the senior and who was also being investigated by the Dauphin Country Area Agency on Aging, over allegations he’d been sexually assaulting Swann.

Neighbors described Swann as very friendly and helpful, but nobody had seen her since June 9, when the man next door spotted her heading into town.

The autopsy revealed that Swann had over 30 fractures to her face and ribs. Police were very suspicious of Barksdale and did not believe his story that he’d not noticed the strong smell from Swann’s decomposing body.

Eventually, nine months later, Barksdale was arrested and charged with the murder of his former lover. In December 2016 the 51-year-old was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

He denied committing the crime and told the judge: “I’ve just been convicted for a crime I didn’t commit.”

Barksdale’s subsequent appeal in March 2018 was rejected and his conviction was upheld by the state Superior Court.

The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead – One Tiny Bone airs at 9:00 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.

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