‘Animal’ in custody in beating death of Venice hotel worker

‘Animal’ in custody in beating death of Venice hotel worker
Stephen Matthew Havrilka (Source: SCSO)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Details have emerged in the bloody murder of a hotel maid in Venice Tuesday. A suspect with a long criminal history, whom Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman called “an animal,” is in custody, charged with murder.

At a news conference Wednesday in Sarasota, Hoffman said the victim’s husband, concerned when his wife did not respond to texts, found her, severely battered and unconscious, in a closet of a room she had been cleaning at the Rodeway Inn located at 1910 S. Tamiami Trail, Tuesday.

He called 911, removed a towel that had been stuffed in her mouth, and attempted to administer CPR. Police did not identify the victim, but her husband spoke with ABC7 and identified her as Tina Strader. She had been an employee of the hotel since Dec. 2019.

Deputies and paramedics arrived and Strader was transported to the hospital, where she died later that day.

A short time after deputies arrived they were notified of a suspicious person in the area of Alligator Drive and South Tamiami Trail. There, they found Stephen Mathew Havrilka, 30, wearing no shirt and jeans. The arrest report said Havrilka was acting erratic, speaking gibberish, and he started kneeling and praying on the ground. He appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

Hoffman said it took five deputies to subdue Havrilka, who was placed into protective custody under the Marchman Act and transported to Venice Regional Bayfront Hospital.

The Marchman Act provides for the involuntary or voluntary assessment, stabilization and treatment of a person abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Hoffman said a watch and shirt Havrilka was seen wearing in surveillance video that morning were found in a wooded area near the hotel. Hoffman said Havrilka had been staying at the hotel for the past six days.

Havrilka has had a long list of charges in the past, according to records, spending time in prison for burglary, battery on an elderly person and intimidation on charges based out of Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Photos taken by police show Havrilka has tattoos associated with white supremacy groups. “He is an animal,” Hoffman said, adding Havrilka has 19 previous felony convictions. “He’s very familiar to us,” he said.

Hoffman said his heart goes out to the victim’s family, particularly the husband, who was the first to find his wife. “It was a bloody scene,” Hoffman said. “I can’t imagine doing what the husband had to do.

“No homicide scene is pleasant. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for him.”

Havrilka has been charged with second-degree murder. Hoffman said he did not appear to know the victim and that race did not initially appear to be a motive in the case.

Murder suspect Stephen Havrilka has a long criminal history.
Murder suspect Stephen Havrilka has a long criminal history. (Source: SCSO)

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