Pasco County sheriff's investigators hope a Christmas card will be the break they need to solve a 2-year-old homicide case.
After Todd George Novak, 43, was found dead in his modest lakefront home on School Road in Land O'Lakes on Feb. 15, 2004, investigators scoured his home for clues. They found the card right away, tucked in a pile of papers in his kitchen. But they still haven't come across the sender.
The card was written by someone named Vic, a person with an apparently romantic interest in Novak, given its tone. The trouble is, detectives found Novak's girlfriend and his ex-wife. Neither is named Vic. His family and co-workers also were at a loss when it came to identifying the mysterious person.
"We've searched high and low for this person Vic," said Detective Allen Proctor, the lead investigator on the case.
They hope Vic, or someone who knows Vic, will come forward after seeing the note. People with information are asked to call toll free 1-800-854-2862, ext. 5015.
At the time, Novak's killing shocked neighbors, who described the area as quiet, with the most troubling crime being an occasional burglary or stolen bicycle.
Novak's family has kept in close contact with Proctor, asking for updates in the case. They did not return calls seeking comment for this story, but Proctor said they have offered a $100,000 reward in the case.
Proctor said he doesn't think Novak had fallen back into the drug world. He had served eight months in prison in 1997 after reaching a plea agreement in a federal court case. He pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs. Neighbors said Novak was up-front about his past.
So far, Proctor said his investigation has shown that Novak was trying to get his life back in order, working 16 to 18 hours a day and that his most important priority was re-establishing a relationship with his son, who is about 10 or 11 years old now.
Novak worked in the trucking business, hauling equipment and trash. He was last seen by a co-worker on Feb. 14, 2004, when the two made a trip to a landfill in Tampa. He dropped the worker off about 5:30 p.m. in a parking lot, Proctor said.
The man told investigators that Novak acted normally throughout the day and didn't appear to be upset.
Co-workers found Novak's body inside his home about 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 15.
In November, investigators released a security camera photo of a man who was the last to call Novak's cell phone, at 7:37 p.m. Feb. 14 from a Publix supermarket on Dale Mabry Highway, just south of the Pasco/Hillsborough county line. The call was answered, Proctor said.
The man is not considered a suspect, but detectives hoped he might have information that could help solve the case.
No one came forward after the photographs were released.
Now officials are releasing the Christmas card, in what Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll called an unusual release of evidence. But they think it could help.
"I think someone knows exactly what happened there, someone other than the person responsible for this," Proctor said.
Heather Urquides can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or toll free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4613. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.