Tina Strader was found dead in the closet of a hotel room closet at the Rodeway Inn in Venice where she had been working.
Her husband, Gerald Strader, found her after she had gone missing.
“Nobody had seen her,” Gerald Strader told local Fox affiliate WFLA reports.
Disabled and in a wheelchair, he made his way to the room where she’d been working.
“When I went and finally opened the door, I found her,” he told WFLA.
He found his wife, a mother of four and grandmother of two, severely beaten, bruised and unconscious, with a towel stuffed in her mouth,according to deputies, the Miami Herald reports.
Bloodstains covered the bed, the Herald reports.
“This is one of the most egregious recent crimes we have seen in Sarasota County,” Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman said in a statement. “My heart breaks for this woman’s husband and her family.”
At 10: 30 a.m. Tuesday, deputies from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office rushed to the hotel at 1710 Tamiami Trail responding to reports about a bleeding, unconscious woman.
Witnesses tried to perform CPR on her until paramedics arrived.
She was rushed to a local hospital where she died of her injuries, hours later, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Her death elevated the alleged crime from aggravated battery to homicide.
Less than five minutes after receiving the initial 911 call about Strader, deputies responded to another call at the nearby intersection of Alligator Drive and S. Tamiami Trail — this time about “a suspicious white male acting erratically on the street corner,” the sheriff’s office said.
The man allegedly appeared “under the influence of narcotics,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“It took five deputies to take the man into custody,” the sheriff’s office said.
The man, identified as Stephen Havrilka, 30, of Venice, was taken to a local hospital for observation.
During their investigation, detectives reviewed surveillance video allegedly showing Havrilka entering room 209 in the hotel, the room where the victim was found, the sheriff’s office said.
Havrilka had been staying at the hotel for about six days.
Strader was allegedly beaten right after she texted her husband at 8:49 a.m., the Herald reports.
The video, according to deputies, shows Havrilka entering the room at 8:50 a.m. just one minute after Strader had gone inside, the Herald reports.
He allegedly stays there until 9:04 a.m., when he is seen leaving the room carrying a white towel and his shoes.
He can be seen leaving the motel at 9:12 a.m.
No one else goes in or out of the room until Gerald Strader goes inside at 10:07 a.m., when he found her, the Herald reports.
Armed with a search warrant, detectives “recovered evidence” from the alleged beating, the sheriff’s office said.
Havrilka was allegedly “uncooperative” when detectives interviewed him, according to the sheriff’s office.
Havrilka has a lengthy record, the sheriff’s office said in its statement. He is a convicted felon with 19 felony convictions and 10 misdemeanor convictions, the sheriff’s office said.
The convictions ranged from strangulation and battery of a person 65 years or older to motor vehicle theft and tampering with a witness.
At a press conference, Hoffman said Havrilka “did not know the victim but perhaps spent days observing her. She was doing her job and was terrorized, battered. As a husband, I can’t imagine what this victim’s husband is feeling now. I want to see that this man is put away for life.”
Havrilka is charged with second-degree murder.
He is being held in the Sarasota County Jail without bond.
He has not yet entered a plea. His arraignment is scheduled for May 28.
It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney.
Police have not yet said what allegedly led to the beating that killed Strader.
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As police continue to investigate, Gerald Strader is left to pick up the pieces of his life without his wife of six years by his side.
“At 5:55 p.m. April 20, 2021 My entire world Tina Strader passed away,” Strader posted on Tuesday. He added, “In less than one month I’ve lost my mother and my wife.”
His wife was beloved by guests, who returned to the hotel just because of her, he told WFLA.
“That place is our family,” he said. “We have been there for a long, long time and everybody and all the places around here that we frequent, they are all in pieces because of all of this.”
“She made such an impact on so many people’s lives,” he said, ABC affiliate WFTS reports. “She was very genuine. She was awesome, absolutely awesome, she was my world.”
He set up a GoFundMe to help defray funeral costs and help him with expenses.
“On Tuesday April 20, 2021 my beautiful wife was murdered by an unstable person while she was at work,” he wrote. “I am disabled, in a wheelchair, with limited use of either hand. We have no money to cover the funeral expenses or my living expenses.”
What a horrible, tragic, story.