Local doctor brutally murdered in mansion, crime gets national attention

Mystery surrounding Tarpon doctor's murder

EDITOR'S NOTE: We are bringing this story, originally published in February, back because of viewer interest after the story was featured on "48 Hours" on Saturday.

The brutal murder of a local doctor found shot, stabbed, and strangled in his Tarpon Springs' mansion is being thrust into the national spotlight.

Right now, the handy-man of Dr. Steven Schwartz is facing charges for the 74-year-old's murder in 2014, but claims the doctor's wife set him up.

Schwartz's kids are also fighting for millions in estate money.  It’s a twisted plot of murder, green, and a deadly secret kept for decades.

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“I see a couple who really enjoyed being together. Rebecca Schwartz had a wonderful life with her husband,” says Rebecca Schwartz’s attorney, Kim Rivellini. That’s until the beloved doctor, 74-year-old Steven Schwartz, was found murdered in the couple's sprawling waterfront Tarpon Springs home.

Handyman, Anton Stragaj, reportedly discovered the doctor dead, but didn't call 911.

“He entered, Dr. Schwartz is laying there in a pool of blood,” says Attorney Wil Florin. Florin is representing the Estate of Steven Schwartz.

RELATED STORY: Doctor's body found in Tarpon Springs mansion

Stragaj claims the doctor's wife, Rebecca asked him to get her purse from the mansion, saying she took off after the couple had a fight.

“It is the best example of the maxim - truth is stranger than fiction - that I have ever come across,” says Florin.

Months later, police found Stragaj's DNA on the doctor's bloody clothes and arrested him.

“I didn't do it. I did not kill that man,” Anton Stragaj tells CBS’s 48 Hours.  Stragaj insists he's not the killer, so who is?  “Rebecca Schwartz, because she asked me to find someone to kill Dr. Schwartz,” Stragaj says.

Rebecca Schwartz's attorney, Andrew Brown, says there's no evidence of her involvement, other than the word of the accused killer. Schwartz has been listed as a police suspect, but never charged in the on-going investigation.

When asked who Florin believes murdered Dr. Schwartz, he replies, “I think they both were involved to conspire to commit a murder,” Florin says.

Florin is now suing both Rebecca Schwartz and Anton Stragaj on behalf of the doctor's three biological kids, Casey Schwartz, Kelly May, and Carter Schwartz.

“Dad was always a role model to me. What I've always told everyone, ‘If I could be half the physician he was, that would be a successful life,’” says Carter Schwartz.

Florin says rumors swirled of the doctor wanting a divorce and tells 10News that just over a year before his murder, the estate plan was changed from his adult kids to his wife. Florin says the kids haven't seen a dime, and insists she's buying cars, planes, homes and businesses for her own sons and new boyfriend.

“There's a lot of money to burn through, probably $30 million or so,” Florin says.

Florin believes it may have to do with a deadly secret from the doctor's past. He'd killed a dentist in New Mexico at 19, and served a decade in prison before being pardoned. Florin says that may have come back to cost him his life. 

“I think it's directly related to the reason the estate plan was changed. I think there's blackmail involved,” says Florin. When asked if Florin believes Rebecca Schwartz forced her husband to change the estate plan, he replies, “Or everyone is going to know and this is someone held in the highest esteem,” Florin says.  “We’re looking for justice for the kids, and we’re looking for justice for Dr. Schwartz.”

Schwartz has a pre-trial hearing scheduled in April on the murder charge.

If you want to see more about "The Strange Life of Dr. Schwartz," watch WTSP at 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 11, 2017, as 48 Hours goes in-depth on the story.

RELATED STORY48 Hours to feature story on slain doctor

Click here to view the Criminal complaint.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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