Robert Waters

Robert Odell Waters, 53, was arrested on April 30, 2023 for the December 2, 1988 murder of 19-year-old Cathy Sue Swartz in Three Rivers, Michigan.

Swartz was found dead on her bedroom floor by her fiancee later that day. She had been sexually assaulted, beaten and stabbed to death. She had several defensive wounds. Their 9-month-old daughter was in her crib in the next room; she had not been harmed.

A DNA profile of the suspect was developed from blood found at the crime scene. The FGG investigation was conducted by Othram in partnership with the Michigan State Police and the Three Rivers Police Department, beginning in 2022.

Waters was arrested in Beaufort County, South Carolina to await extradition to Michigan. He lived in St. Joseph County at the time of Swartz’s murder. Police state that they also have additional forensic evidence, including fingerprints and footprints.

On May 6, 2023, Waters was found dead in his jail cell at the Beaufort County Detention Center. The cause of his death has not yet been determined.


16 News Now. “Suspect Arrested in Decades-Old Cold Case Murder of Three Rivers Woman.” 16 News Now, May 1, 2023. Accessed May 2, 2023.

Associated Press. “South Carolina Man Arrested in Michigan Woman’s 1988 Killing.” AP, May 1, 2023. Accessed May 2, 2023.

Ramirez, Chalres E. “Suspect in 1988 Murder of Three Rivers Mother Arrested.” Detroit News, May 1, 2023. Accessed May 2, 2023.

Russ, Morgan. “Man Charged in 1988 Michigan Murder Found Dead in South Carolina Jail Cell, Officials Say.” Click on Detroit, May 6, 2023. Accessed May 7, 2023.

Vogen, Michael. “Michigan State Police and Three Rivers Police Department Team with Othram to Identify the Suspect in the 1988 Murder of Cathy Swartz.”, May 1, 2023. Accessed May 2, 2023.



First Name Robert
Last Name Waters
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2022-00-00
Case Cleared 2023-04-30
IGG Org Othram


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1912 Cathy Swartz 19 1988-12-02 Three Rivers, MI Michigan SP; Three Rivers PD Second degree murder Suspect died while the trial was ongoing Centreville District Court

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.