Virginia Cardiologist Murdered While on Vacation in Belize

Megan Brooks

June 28, 2019

Gary Paul Swank, MD, an interventional cardiologist from Virginia, was murdered June 23 while vacationing in Belize with his wife and young children.

Swank was medical director of Carilion Clinic's Cardiac Catheterization Lab and an associate professor of internal medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke. He was 53.

Dr Gary Swank Carilion Clinic

On the morning of June 23, Swank went fly fishing with local tour guide Mario Nestle Graniel Jr, also 53, when a dark skiff passed by and someone opened fire on their small boat, according to multiple media reports.

Graniel's body was found inside the boat with what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds. Swank's body was found floating in the lagoon about 30 feet away from the boat — also with what appeared to be gunshot wounds, according to the media reports. Both men were rushed to the San Pedro Polyclinic, where they were pronounced dead.

Local authorities believe Graniel was the target because a gunman reportedly fired shots outside his apartment complex a day earlier. One bullet pierced the front door.

According to News 5 Belize, the key suspect in the shooting is a woman. She is said to be cooperating with authorities. She is one of several people being held by Belize authorities, the news outlet reported.

"Heartbroken"

"We are heartbroken" over this "tragic news," the Carilion Clinic said in a statement.

"Dr Swank was a well-respected and well-loved colleague who, each and every day, embodied the values that we hold dear. His absence leaves a void in our team and in our community. Our thoughts, prayers and attention are now focused on helping his family navigate this difficult time," the statement reads.

"Gary was an incredibly driven individual, both professionally and personally, and we were blessed to have been a part of his life," the Swank family said in a statement. "His death will be felt throughout the community, as he was a physician, caregiver, teacher, mentor, avid outdoorsman, neighbor, colleague, and friend to many. His senseless murder has left us to mourn a purposeful life ended too soon.

"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," the Swank family said.

The US State Department maintains a level 2 travel advisory for Belize, urging "increased caution" as "violent crime — such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder — are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas."

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