Key suspect and others detained in Belize murder of Carilion doctor

Photo of Dr. Gary Swank
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(WDBJ7)-- A key suspect and others have been detained in the murder of Roanoke cardiologist, Dr. Gary Swank and his tour guide, Mario Graniel in Belize.

Both Swank and Graniel were fatally shot while fishing in the San Pedro Town Lagoon Sunday morning. That key suspect is a woman, according to News 5 Belize and she is said to be cooperating with authorities. She is one of several people who are being held by Belize authorities Wednesday night.

The woman was reportedly close to Graniel and is said to have played a key role in the murders of both men, according to News 5 Belize. Graniel was the target and Swank was what police called "collateral damage," according to News 5 Belize.

The murders are part of a string of violence in the Central American nation and Belize officials are working to address that. There was a meeting Wednesday night between the San Pedro Police Commissioner and tourism stakeholders including hoteliers, according to News 5 Belize.



The tour guide who took Roanoke physician, Dr. Gary Swank fishing on Sunday had trouble with a local gang and Dr. Swank was a "victim of circumstance." That's according to Belize police officials who held a press conference Tuesday.

Swank and tour guide Mario Greniel were shot multiple times while fishing in San Pedro lagoon Sunday morning.

"What we are gathering after the fact is that the deceased, Mr. Greniel, had a misunderstanding with a notorious gang figure in San Pedro," said Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams.

It was Friday night that police responded to Greniel's apartment after a report of shots fired and found gunshot damage to his front door. Police maintained a presence in the area to protect Graniel and the community from further violence, according to Williams.

"We maintain police presence in the area to protect him and the community from further shootings but we can't follow the man everywhere he goes," Williams said. "He decided to go out with a tourist."

Police said they are working on several leads. "Police are conducting interviews and I believe some persons may be detained at this time," said Superintendent Hilberto Romero with the Crimes Investigation Branch. "The police have interviews to conduct and that is what they are presently doing."

The family of Dr. Gary Swank released a statement Tuesday.

Swank Family Statement:
We are heartbroken at the loss of our incredible husband and devoted father Gary Swank, M.D., who we will forever cherish. His senseless murder has left us to mourn a purposeful life ended too soon.

Gary was an incredibly driven individual, both professionally and personally, and we were blessed to have been a part of his life. His death will be felt throughout the community, as he was a physician, caregiver, teacher, mentor, avid outdoorsman, neighbor, colleague, and friend to many.

We are grateful for the overwhelming love shown by family, friends, patients and strangers. For the countless prayers, flowers, and phone calls thank you from the bottom of our hearts.