Man accused of beating motel employee to death declared incompetent for trial

Man accused of beating motel employee to death declared incompetent for trial

Waiting for justice

Kimberly Kuizon reports.

A year after a convicted felon brutally beat a woman to death inside a Venice motel room, he was found incompetent to stand trial, stalling the case against him.    

Gerald Strader carries a pain few will ever understand.

“I think about her every day and what she deserves,” he said.

The love of his life was taken far too soon and in a brutal manner.

“That’s my baby right next to my heart,” he said.

He wears a necklace with his wife’s thumbprint on it. He will never forget her.

“She had that unique ability to make anybody and everybody feel like they were the most important person in this world,” he said.

Last April, Tina Strader was working at the Rodeway Inn in Venice. The hotel has since changed names, but what happened in room 205 will never be forgotten.

“There’s no other way to describe Mr. Havrilka. He is an animal,” said Sheriff Kurt Hoffman in 2021.

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Sarasota County deputies said Stephen Havrilka was staying at the Rodeway Inn as he walked into the room Tina Strader was cleaning. They said he severely beat her and left her for dead in a closet.

One year later as Havrilka’s trial was set to start, he was ruled incompetent.

“It was not unexpected that he would be ruled incompetent, but it wasn’t what I hoped for,” said Strader.

Pictured: Stephen Havrilka 

Prior to the murder, Havrilka had been Baker Acted a number of times. His arrest record includes 30 prior felonies. Doctors at a state-run hospital will now monitor his mental status and see if they can restore his competency.

If they succeed, he could eventually go on trial, but that can be a long process. A timeline is unknown.

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“There’s no justice for Tina and there’s no peace for me,” said Gerald Strader.

In a statement Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said, “Ultimately, I believe in the criminal justice process. In this case, the courts have made their decision, and the good news is he will continue to be in a place where he cannot harm anyone. Hopefully, once he is again seen in court, the process will continue, and justice will be served.”

Pictured: Stephen Havrilka 

Gerald Strader will have to wait.

“I believe in the court system and I have to because what other choice do I have,” he said.

Though justice for Tina Strader has stalled, he hasn’t given up.

“She was the biggest giver, biggest heart and biggest genuine soul of anybody I’ve ever known in my entire life and I’m sure that I will ever know,” he said.

Joseph Hubbard

Joseph Hubbard is a seasoned journalist passionate about uncovering stories and reporting on events that shape our world. With a strong background in journalism, he has dedicated his career to providing accurate, unbiased, and insightful news coverage to the public.

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