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Police say death of doctor at Tarpon home a mystery


Published:   |   Updated: May 30, 2014 at 10:36 AM

— It was about 9:20 Wednesday night when Rebecca Schwartz returned to the $1.6 million, 7,400-square-foot waterfront mansion she shared with her husband, physician Steven P. Schwartz.

Rebecca didn’t pull into the garage at 1310 Belcher Drive, where another vehicle was parked. Rather, she went through the main entrance, and noticed things weren’t right, she later told authorities. They were out of order, in the words of Tarpon Springs Police Sgt. Ed Miller. Rebecca told detectives she knew a burglary when she saw one, as she once had been a victim of one, at a different address, so she backed out of the house and called 911.

Had Rebecca Schwartz, 53, not followed her instincts, she might have stumbled into her husband.

A K-9 unit was called to go through the house based on its massive size, and officers soon found Schwartz, 74, dead.

Twenty-four hours later, detectives remained tight-lipped about what they knew, except to say the nephrology physician died of trauma to the upper body.

Investigators typically keep details close to their vest, so they can be used against suspects during interrogations.

Still, Schwartz’s death is something of a mystery. The couple did not have any reported domestic problems at the address, Miller said, and Schwartz himself was a well-regarded physician, with a specialty in kidney-related disorders. He founded Main Street Medical at 1121 Overcash Drive in Dunedin, where he was still working.

“This was a shock to all of his friends that this would happen to such a nice guy,” said Jose Torres, a fellow physician who has an internal medicine practice in Dunedin.

“He had his own personal life that he kept to himself. If he did have problems, he didn’t make them known,” Torres said. “I don’t know of any individuals who had any ill will toward him.”

Torres has known Schwartz for 27 years, and he watched as Schwartz bloomed financially, by dint of his work ethic and because patients and colleagues alike loved him. His large frame was belied by his gentle manner. He was generous, too, offering friends opportunities to use his season tickets for Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays games.

What authorities were willing to say about the investigation Thursday, as they work to solve their newfound puzzle, is that they do not think Schwartz’s slaying was random.

In a move uncommon for a law enforcement agency, a letter was disseminated among residents on Belcher Driver and adjoining streets advising them they had little to worry about.

“Based on our investigation thus far we are confident that this was not a random act of violence, and that this occurrence was focused solely on 1310 Belcher Drive,” Tarpon Springs Police Chief Robert Kochen wrote.

“The Tarpon Springs Police Department will maintain a high patrol presence in the area of 1310 Belcher Drive and area residents are being asked to come forward with any information they have regarding the murder of Doctor Schwartz by calling 727-938-2849,” the chief wrote.

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