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'He's an animal': Felon with possible neo-Nazi alliances accused of beating Venice hotel worker to death

When deputies caught up with Stephen Havrilka they say he was speaking in tounges.
Credit: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — A hotel worker in Venice died at the hands of a man the sheriff's office says is “extremely familiar with law enforcement” and has possible white supremacy and neo-Nazi alliances.

During a press conference Wednesday, Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said his deputies were initially called out around 10:38 a.m. Tuesday to the Rodeway Inn at 1910 South Tamiami Trail for a report of an unconscious woman. 

According to investigators, her husband had called and texted her several times but did not hear back, so he went to the Rodeway Inn where he found her unresponsive. Hoffman also says the husband and witnesses gave her CPR at the scene. 

The woman later died after being taken to an area hospital.

Less than five minutes after the initial call, the sheriff's office says it received calls for a suspicious man around two miles from the hotel. 

Hoffman says once deputies got to the man he was speaking in tounges, acting erratic and was combative to the point that it took five deputies to take him into custody.

Deputies say the man, identified as Stephen Havrilka, was taken into custody under a Marchman Act, which is a Florida statute that requires "an addict or alcoholic to engage in treatment when they refuse to do so voluntarily," according to the act's webpage. 

Havrilka was also taken to the hospital for observation, according to the sheriff's office.

Investigators say surveillance video showed Havrilka walking through the open door of the room where the woman was later found unresponsive. The sheriff's office also said management confirmed he was staying at the hotel for six days prior to the beating.

In his room, evidence was found related to the battery, according to Sheriff Hoffman. A K-9 officer also located Havrilka's shirt and watch in a nearby wooded area he is believed to have fled to after the crime, according to a press release.

“I can just tell you as a husband I can not imagine what this victim’s husband is going through right now having tried to contact her and not been able to contact her and then obviously he was the one that found her unresponsive in the hotel room," Hoffman said.

According to the sheriff's office, Havrilka did not know the woman, but he might have been observing her while he stayed at the hotel. 

Outside of 19 felony and 10 misdemeanor convictions on Havrilka's record, the sheriff pointed out Havrilka has tattoos that depict symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazi alliances. While he noted the connections, the sheriff says that race does not appear to be an issue with this case.

“He is an animal," Hoffman added, calling this one of the most egregious crimes the area has seen.

Havrilka is charged with second-degree murder in the woman's death. Sheriff Hoffman says he is "committed to working with the State Attorney’s Office to see that this defendant is put away for life.”

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