Man wants name cleared following death of elderly woman

“I’m innocent.”

Written in the dust caked on a window is the message, “Miss you Peggy.” David Barksdale said he placed flowers and a white swan on the porch in memory of 83-year-old Peggy Swann, the love of his life.

“Love doesn’t have a number,” Barksdale said. “When you love someone it’s not about age, it’s about love.”

Now 49, Barksdale said he understands that his relationship with someone thirty years older may seem strange to others. He said 15 years ago when he met Swann, she was 68 and he was 34.

“Peggy invented the word ‘cougar’,” Barksdale said.

He explained their love was passionate for three years, but they split up due to the age difference. And yet, Barksdale says they remained close throughout the years.

On June 26, Barksdale said he discovered Swann in the basement of the home he owns on the 100 block of North 13th Street in Harrisburg.

“I actually found her downstairs wrapped in a blanket,” he said.

To this point, Harrisburg Police have not determined a cause or a manner of death for Swann. Authorities have said they are treating the case as a homicide until evidence proves otherwise. No suspects have been named; no charges have been filed.

On Tuesday, abc27 reported on court documents that revealed Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging were conducting an investigation into alleged sexual abuse against Swann two weeks prior. Per abc27 policy, the man named in those documents was not identified.

David Barksdale called abc27 asking for an opportunity to clear his name from any wrongdoing—because he was the man named in those court petitions.

Barksdale said someone told police he was sexually abusing Swann to “set him up.”

“To be honest with you, I never had to assault or rape or do anything,” he said. “People don’t know Peggy and I had an ongoing relationship.”

Barksdale said the last time he saw and spoke with Swann was on June 9 around 4:30 p.m. Although he was added to the home’s deed in 2006, Barksdale said he was living with another woman the past couple months and hadn’t been intimate with Swann in several months. He said others were living in the home with Swann.

Barksdale claims a tenant of his answered the door when a caseworker went to the home to investigate reports of sexual abuse, only to be denied access to the home and Swann’s whereabouts. This prompted the agency to file two petitions against Barksdale and residents in the house for interfering with the county’s investigation.

The two petitions were filed on June 11 and June 12 respectively. Barksdale’s Facebook page shows this post dated June 13: “HEY ALL OF MY HARRISBURG, PA. FRIENDS, PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR MISS PEGGY SWANN. SHE IS 83 YEARS OLD AND HAS BEEN MISSING SINCE MONDAY JUNE 9TH 2014. THANK YOU, GOD BLESS.”

Barksdale said he does not remember posting this message. He said Swann took out $350 from her account on June 9 and thought she used the money for food and fun while staying at a friend’s house. This is he said he never thought of looking in the basement for Swann.

Last Thursday, a roommate complained of an odor coming from the basement. Barksdale said he saw wet-looking quilt in the back of the basement. Upon uncovering it, he realized it was Swann’s body.

Authorities said the body had been there for several weeks and was decomposed to the point where police could not immediately identify a gender.

When Barksdale was asked why he could not detect an odor sooner, he reasoned: “Maybe that’s why you didn’t smell the [decomposed body], because whoever killed her wrapped her in a blanket.”

Barksdale broke down in tears shortly after.

“But, umm….this is….I still can’t believe it,” he said. “This is just horrific. Like, who would do something to a lady?”

Barksdale said he has cooperated with police and provided DNA samples to aid the investigation. Police did confirm that Barksdale has been cooperative.

Unable to afford a special cleaning service for the basement and the grief of Swann’s death, Barksdale said the situation is much harder when everyone in the neighborhood thinks you killed the woman you loved.

“How could you be in that house and not smell the body for two weeks? You know you killed her!” he mimicked. “So, I’m really going through a horrific, emotional, spiritual, mental torment. Public opinion will kill you quicker than the courts.”

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