NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Husband finds wife beaten to death at Venice hotel

The victim worked as a housekeeper
Posted at 10:39 PM, Apr 21, 2021

VENICE, Fla. — A husband found his wife beaten to death at a Venice hotel Tuesday morning.

Gerald Strader said his wife, Tina, worked as a housekeeper at the Rodeway Inn on South Tamiami Trail in Venice. He became concerned when he couldn't reach her.

RELATED: Man arrested for killing motel housekeeper has long criminal history

"I thought well they moved her to the third floor or first floor or even laundry room so I went and checked all those places and nobody had seen her, nobody had heard from her, nothing. I went back to the room then when I opened the door, I saw her," said Gerald Strader, the victim's husband.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office responded to the hotel around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday after a call about an unconscious woman. Witnesses attempted CPR on the victim until paramedics arrived and took her to a local hospital. She died later that evening.

Less than 5 minutes after the initial call, deputies responded to the intersection of Alligator Drive and S. Tamiami Trail for a report of a suspicious person. The sheriff's office said it took five deputies to take the suspect into custody.

The sheriff said the suspect was arrested under the state's Marchman Act that allows law enforcement to take someone into custody if they're abusing drugs or alcohol.

Deputies identified the suspect as 30-year-old Stephen Havrilka. He has a long criminal history with 34 prior felony charges and 19 felony convictions. He served prison time on four separate occasions.

Deputies said he was caught on hotel surveillance cameras entering the room where the victim was discovered. The sheriff said he had been staying at the hotel for nearly a week.

Deputies said a search warrant was executed on his room where detectives recovered evidence from the aggravated battery. Havrilka faces a second-degree charge.

"This is one of the most egregious recent crimes we have seen in Sarasota County," said Sheriff Kurt 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."

Strader said he was married to his wife for 6 years.

"She made such an impact on so many people's lives. She was very genuine. She was awesome, absolutely awesome, she was my world," Strader said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.