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Doctor found slain in Tarpon Springs mansion (w/video)

TARPON SPRINGS — Rebecca Schwartz got home Wednesday night and found her 7,400-square-foot mansion on the Anclote River in disarray.

Fearing a burglary, she called police.

Tarpon Springs officers arrived and it took police dogs about 10 minutes to find the body of a man.

It was Schwartz's husband, Dr. Steven Patlin Schwartz, a 74-year-old doctor with an office in Dunedin.

His death is being investigated as a homicide, said Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Ed Miller, describing Schwartz's fatal injuries as "upper body trauma."

Police disclosed few details about their investigation Thursday but did say Schwartz was targeted. Officers distributed a letter by Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert Kochen on Thursday to alleviate residents' concerns.

"Based on our investigation thus far," Kochen wrote, "we are confident that this was not a random act of violence."

Rebecca Schwartz, 53, was interviewed by detectives, but she is "not listed as a suspect right now," Miller added. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Within the past year, the only other contact police have had with the home at 1310 Belcher Drive was Sept. 24 regarding a missing boat that was later recovered, according to police records.

Detectives were still determining Thursday whether a burglary actually occurred. Police did not say whether there was evidence that someone broke in or if there were signs of a struggle within the house, purchased by the Schwartzes in 2011 for $656,000. Last year, the mansion was valued at $1.6 million, property records show.

On Thursday, patrol cars and crime scene unit vans flanked the two-story home with tan exterior walls and brick accents. A white Mercedes was parked in the driveway.

Neighbors described the Schwartzes as a nice couple who occasionally hosted parties and owned two large dogs: a mastiff and a black Labrador.

Schwartz received his medical degree from the University of Torino in Italy in 1980, state records show. He started practicing medicine in Florida in 1985 and is certified in nephrology, which focuses on kidney illnesses and treatment. State records show Schwartz has not been disciplined in the past. He was the defendant in a pending malpractice lawsuit filed last year in Pinellas County that claims he was negligent in the care of a patient who died of an infection.

His practice, Main Street Medical, is on Overcash Drive in Dunedin, where employees declined to comment Thursday.

His family also declined to comment.

A photo on the medical office's website shows a gray-haired and bespectacled Schwartz smiling with a stethoscope draped around his neck.

"Dr. Schwartz was a very nice person,'' said Schwartz's attorney, Kirsten Ullman. "He was well-respected by his peers, and he was clearly dedicated to his patients and his community."

Times staff writers Claire Wiseman and Charlie Frago and staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157. On Twitter: @lauracmorel.

Doctor found slain in Tarpon Springs mansion (w/video) 05/29/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 11:06pm]
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