WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - February 10th, 2020 is a day the small community of Cayce will never forget.
One year ago, the Churchill Heights neighborhood was turned upside down as hundreds of law enforcement officers searched the woods, homes, and even trash cans looking for 6-year-old Faye Swetlik, who vanished from her front porch.
Three days of searching brought a tragic ending. Officials found her body in a shallow grave the morning of February 13. They say her neighbor killed her and then took his own life.
Faye’s mother, Selena Collins, and her father, Chad Swetlik, have spent the last year trying to process what happened to their bright and innocent little girl, while also trying to keep her memory alive.
“There was a decent amount of time that I was refusing to face what happened,” said Collins.
Collins wants people to remember Faye’s smile and her love and compassion for others. But most importantly, rather than focusing on how Faye died, her parents want people to remember how she lived.
“I really do hope in the continuance of Faye’s legacy that you continue to be there for one another and continue to be kind,” said Collins.
Faye’s laughs, smile, and spunky personality made her easy to love.
“She had boundless energy from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to sleep,” Collins laughed. “She was on ten 100 percent of the time.”
The inquisitive and adventurous 6-year-old loved animals, school, and make-up a lot.
“It was a struggle almost every morning, whenever she got up to brush her teeth and hair and get ready for school that she could not wear purple eyeshadow to school,” said Collins. “So, sometimes we had to have a compromise, and that day she wore purple eyeshadow to school because we could not miss the bus.”
Losing a child is a pain no parent should ever have to endure, but Faye’s parents are strong, doing their best to resume their daily lives without their precious little girl.
“We find little moments to help us through the day, and it works,” said Swetlik. “We both have different things that help us through the day.”
Some of those things are Faye’s belongings, like her necklace that Swetlik wears every day, as well as the memories she’s left scattered around her home.
“The little crayon marks and the scuff marks on the furniture, it’s things like that and bows everywhere,” Collins explained.
In Springdale, where she went to school, you’ll find Faye’s buddy benches. If you’re lucky, you may come across painted kindness rocks because that’s the way Faye lived.
Even in the midst of unthinkable loss, her parents say they know their little girl is home in heaven, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re together again.
“I might look a little bit different, but I know she’s going to know that’s Mom,” said Collins. “I will be ready when that time comes.”
Collins says she’s leaned into her faith and both she and Swetlik have relied on the community’s support to get through the last year.
The Town of Springdale Police Department has named this week #FayeDayWeek2021. They ask that you wear pink and purple, Faye’s favorite colors, and post photos on social media using the hashtag #FayeDayWeek2021 and #HaveAFayeDay.
You can also send your photos to Sandy Harrelson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Springdale Police say they will compile a slideshow of the photos to honor the life of Faye.