NEWS RELEASE 21-025 - APRIL 21, 2021
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged a Venice man with Homicide after he severely battered a woman and left her for dead in a hotel room.
Deputies initially responded just after 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, to the Rodeway Inn hotel located at 1710 S. Tamiami Trail in Venice for the report of an unconscious woman. According to witnesses at the hotel, the woman was found in a hotel room, severally battered and bruised. Witnesses attempted to render CPR on the victim until paramedics arrived and transported her to the hospital.
Less than five minutes after the initial call, deputies responded to the intersection of Alligator Drive and S. Tamiami Trail for the report of a suspicious white male acting erratically on the street corner. Deputies contacted the man who appeared under the influence of narcotics. It took five deputies to take the man into custody under a Marchman Act, a Florida Statute that allows law enforcement to take someone into custody who is abusing drugs or alcohol and appears to be a danger to themselves or others. The man was taken to the hospital for observation and identified as 30-year-old Stephen Havrilka of Venice.
As detectives began their investigation, they reviewed surveillance video that captured the Havrilka enter the hotel room where the victim was discovered. Hotel management confirmed Havrilka had been staying in room 209 for approximately six days. A search warrant was executed on room 209 where detectives recovered evidence from the aggravated battery. A K-9 deputy also assisted in the investigation and with support from his K-9, recovered Havrilka’s shirt and watch in a wooded area to the south of the hotel where he fled after the incident.
Late Tuesday night, the victim passed away which elevated the incident to a homicide. Havrilka was uncooperative when interviewed however through investigation, detectives learned Havrilka did not know the victim.
Havrilka is a convicted felon with 34 prior felony charges and 19 felony convictions, as well as 16 prior misdemeanor charges and 10 misdemeanor convictions. He served time in prison on four separate occasions. His prior crimes range from Vehicle Burglary, Criminal Mischief, Possession of Burglary Tools, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Battery, to Domestic Battery, Strangulation, Burglary with Assault or Battery, Battery of a Detained Person, Battery of a Person 65 Years or Older, and Tampering with a Witness.
“This is one of the most egregious recent crimes we have seen in Sarasota County,” commented Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman. “My heart breaks for this woman’s husband and her family. By all accounts, she was doing her job when she was terrorized by this animal. I am committed to working with the State Attorney’s Office to see that this defendant is put away for life.”
The victim in this case was employed by the hotel. Her family opted into Marsy’s Law which protects her identity from being publicly released. Members of the sheriff’s office Victim’s Assistance Unit have been on scene since early Tuesday and will continue to provide support to the victim’s family through the criminal justice process.
The investigation continues.