It’s been two years since Dr. Steven Patlin Schwartz was murdered and the family is still searching for answers. The 74-year-old man was stabbed and shot in his home. Police have charged Anton Stragaj, the family’s handyman with first-degree murder, but Schwartz’s children still feel something is amiss. They recently filed a lawsuit against their stepmother, Rebecca Schwartz, making allegations that she was conspiring to kill their father.
Police have not charged Mrs. Schwartz, but her stepchildren allege that she not only helped kill her husband, but also embezzled money from him, even convincing him to change his will to leave his $10 million estate to her instead of his three children. Wil Florin is the attorney representing the children of Schwartz in the lawsuit and he said this has taken an extreme toll on the family.
“Not only did they have the emotional rug pulled out from under them, but they had the financial rug pulled out from under them,” he explained. “All of the support that Schwartz was providing, which was significant, has been terminated by Ms. Schwartz.
Denis deVlaming is representing Rebecca in the lawsuit and he said they would fight the allegations. “Mrs. Schwartz has vigorously denied having anything to do with the death of her husband. We’re going to hold their feet to the fire,” the attorney said.
The lawsuit states that Rebecca took money from her husband’s accounts both before and after his murder. It also accuses her of embezzling money from his medical practice. The children claim that their stepmother even hired a shredding service to get rid of boxes of paperwork that would have implicated her in embezzlement of the doctor’s funds. The lawsuit goes on to state that Rebecca essentially blackmailed her husband into changing his will to her benefit by threatening to expose “information important to his reputation in the community.”
While no one knows exactly what kind of dirt Rebecca Schwartz might have had on her husband, there were reports last year that he shot and killed a New Mexico dentist around 50 years ago. Although he was sentenced to life in prison, he was given parole and later pardoned for the crime.
According to police, the day of Schwartz’s murder was full of bizarre circumstances. Rebecca told police that she arrived home to find that money and jewelry had been stolen and the house was in disarray. She called police and the officers who responded later found the body of her husband near the garage. The handyman’s DNA was on the doctor’s shirt, which was the main evidence used to justify the arrest of Stragaj.
Schwartz’s children believe the robbery was all staged, pointing out that someone had removed the hard drive from the home surveillance system. They also allege that their stepmother owns a .22-caliber firearm, which is the same type that was used to shoot Schwartz. The three Schwartz children all live in Florida, although Casey Schwartz is currently serving time in prison for DUI manslaughter.
Christopher Ligori, a wrongful death attorney in Tampa, said the case could take years to sort out in court. “With so many allegations floating around and the original criminal investigation still underway, there are many factors in this lawsuit. It could take many months before this case every sees a courtroom or the family may choose to settle with the help of their attorneys.”