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Valley News Dispatch

A year after unsolved Parks Township double murder, family calls for information

Chuck Biedka
| Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, 6:03 p.m.
Dawanye Klingensmith and Heather Swicklinski were murdered in their Parks Township home on Nov. 13, 2017.
Submitted photo
Dawanye Klingensmith and Heather Swicklinski were murdered in their Parks Township home on Nov. 13, 2017.
The bodies of Heather Swicklinski, 22, and Dawayne Klingensmith, 29, were found inside a house in the Pleasant View section of Parks Township on Nov. 13, 2017. Their 17-month-old son wasn’t harmed.
The bodies of Heather Swicklinski, 22, and Dawayne Klingensmith, 29, were found inside a house in the Pleasant View section of Parks Township on Nov. 13, 2017. Their 17-month-old son wasn’t harmed.
State police investigators gather evidence at the scene of a double murder in Parks Township on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.
Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
State police investigators gather evidence at the scene of a double murder in Parks Township on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017.

When they were shot to death a year ago, Heather Swicklinski and Dawayne Klingensmith left behind a baby boy who’d been sleeping in a crib in the Parks Township house when his parents were killed.

The boy, Tavion, is now a very happy 2-year-old, but the couple’s family isn’t pleased with the pace of the investigation surrounding his parents’ deaths.

“I am not satisfied, but I am confident they are working hard and something is going to happen. I just wish it was sooner,” said Shannon Klingensmith Lasko of Arnold, sister of Dawayne Klingensmith. “I just hope there will be justice for Dawayne and Heather. My family is suffering and her family is suffering. We need some closure.”

The couple was found by Swicklinski’s father on Nov. 13, 2017, in small gray house along Route 66 and West Fifth Street in the township’s Pleasant View neighborhood.

In the hours after the discovery, state police and Armstrong County District Attorney detectives pored over the house, which has since been sold.

Five months after Swicklinski and Klingensmith were found, George Leonard Peace, 46, of Apollo, was charged with hiding the handgun police say was used in the killings. No other charges have been filed in the case.

“George Peace maintains that he is not guilty in the gun case,” said his attorney, Greg Swank.

Peace was scheduled to go to trial earlier this month but the trial was cancelled, according to Armstrong County District Attorney Katie Charlton.

Investigators are waiting for DNA and other lab results from samples taken last year, state police Lt. Dan Ekis said.

“We are actively investigating. We are getting quite a few solid leads,” Ekis said.

Charlton said she talks weekly — sometimes much more than that — with the case’s chief investigator, a state police corporal.

“His heart is in the case and he is diligent. I feel confident his work will get us to charges,” Charlton said.

Swicklinski’s mother, Lizzie, and her husband are taking care of Tavion at an undisclosed location.

“Heather was a fun-loving, caring mother who loved her little boy,” she said.

“All I know is that my daughter is dead and state police are working hard on it and I have a grandson to take care of.”

State police previously said the killings may not have been random.

According to Donna Klingensmith, Dawayne’s mother, someone broke into the house about two weeks before the murders and used a TV to beat Klingensmith and Swicklinski.

Troopers know that more than five gunshots were fired when the couple died.

Klingensmith’s handgun was found inside the house. Records show he wasn’t legally allowed to have one.

Troopers still haven’t said if there was an exchange of gunfire between him and the shooter or if the shots were only fired by an intruder or someone welcomed into the house.

The victim’s families believe each were shot multiple times.

Troopers won’t speculate about motive and want to talk with anyone who may have direct information about the shooting.

In addition to Tavion, Klingensmith was the father of four sons and two daughters from previous relationships, his family said.

Both families said they need to know more.

It’s painful to think about them, Donna Klingensmith said.

“We can’t rest. We’re on the phone with each other all the time crying,” she said.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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