Details of Disappearance Swedell was employed at the K-Mart retail store in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota in 1988. She phoned her family members from work at 4:00 p.m. on January 19, 1988.
Swedell said that she planned to go straight home after her shift ended to watch a movie. She changed into a short skirt before she departed from work, which was considered odd due to the snowy conditions at the time.
Swedell's vehicle, a maroon 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass, overheated during her drive to her residence. She stopped at a gasoline station at the corner of Manning Avenue north and Highway 5, approximately one mile from her home in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. The attendant allowed her to park her car at the establishment.
The employee told authorities that Swedell entered a vehicle driven by an unidentified male shortly afterwards. The man appeared to have been waiting for Swedell near the station. He is described as having shoulder-length curly sandy brown hair and a well-built physique.
The witness said that the man was tall and was unshaven, and wore a leather jacket. A sketch of him is posted with this case summary. His vehicle was a light-colored older model car with sport wheels; it was in good shape, but was dirty. Swedell never returned home and has not been heard from again.
When authorities searched Swedell's car, they found her driver's license, purse and eyeglasses inside it. Swedell's mother had the vehicle towed to a repair shop. Mechanics discovered the petcock on the radiator had been loosened, and the car had no water in it, which explains why it overheated.
Investigators theorized someone loosened the petcock deliberately and followed Swedell's car, waiting for it to malfunction so they could offer her a ride.
Swedell's mother believes her daughter came back to their apartment a few days after her disappearance. She stated there was an odor of a sweetish-smelling smoke in the residence and dirty dishes in the sink, and the house's spare key had been moved.
The red pantsuit Swedell had been wearing on the day of her disappearance, before she changed into her skirt, was found balled up under her bed. There was no sign of Swedell herself at the home, however, and nothing was missing. It's unclear whether she was ever actually there.
Swedell attended the University of Wisconsin at River Falls for two semesters after she graduated Stillwater High School, but she decided she was not ready to live away from home and returned to live with her mother and younger sister.
She worked two part-time jobs at the time of her disappearance, and was active at Christ Lutheran Church, where she sang in the choir and played hand bells.
Swedell had been using telephone chat lines to talk to boys in the weeks prior to her disappearance. She had also been receiving telephone calls at work from a man named Dale. It is not known if the person is connected to her disappearance. Swedell's family describes her as bubbly and sociable but very naive.
Authorities detected activity on Swedell's Social Security number in 2006, but it turned out to be a case of identity theft. Foul play is suspected in Swedell's case.
- Washington County Sheriff's Office
Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 6, 2018; picture added, distinguishing characteristics, clothing/jewelry description and details of disappearance updated.