HUDSON — Bill Koval had endured another cold day holding a cardboard sign on U.S. 19, asking motorists for money.
He and three other men retreated to the woods near Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. One of them, an ex-convict named Steven John Foster, bought some steaks. They built a fire.
"We drank some vodka,'' Koval said. "Cheap vodka.''
The men laughed and drank and then one of them, an ex-convict named David J. Scrivani, made some comment about sex and children, Koval said. "Nasty stuff,'' Koval said. "We cut him off the vodka and he didn't like it. He started talking all kinds of s---.
"Then all hell broke loose.''
Just after 8 p.m. Wednesday, only a few hundred feet from one of the area's premier heart surgery centers, Foster, 45, pummeled Scrivani, 48, with his fists and stomped on his head and chest, according to a Pasco Sheriff's Office report.
"He didn't stop there,'' Koval told the Times the next day as he stood near the entrance to Hudson Cemetery. "I was using my pocketknife to clean my fingernails. Steve grabbed the knife and just started stabbing and stabbing.
"Man, I'm still shaking thinking about it.''
The other man, identified in the report as Richard Calia, called 911.
"Steve just stayed there,'' Koval said. "He didn't try to run. He wanted to make sure he was dead. 'I have to do this,' he said. And then the (deputies) showed up.''
Scrivani had suffered 20 stab wounds to his chest, neck and head. Even though the attack took place so close to the hospital, he was transported by helicopter to a trauma unit at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. His condition was unavailable late Thursday. Foster was in the county jail on $100,000 bail, charged with attempted murder.
Foster has a lengthy criminal record dating to a cocaine charge in Sarasota in 1994. He was convicted of aggravated battery and grand theft and spent 21/2 years in prison before being released in June 2008. Koval said Foster slept at the campsite where the attack took place.
Koval, whose cardboard sign indicated he is homeless, said he did not stay at the campsite. "I get by,'' he said.
Scrivani pleaded guilty to arson of a dwelling in Pasco County and was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison. He was released in July 2009.
On Thursday afternoon, a woman visited the campsite where the beating took place. Paper plates and plastic littered the ground. She pulled back a tarp to show a large amount of blood mixed in dirt. She said she had stayed there once when homeless.
Only a few yards away, beyond some thick bushes, traffic raced by on Hudson Avenue.
"It's usually a pretty good place to hang out,'' said the woman, who did not give her name. "You can build a fire here. Nobody gives you a hard time.''