Family mourns victims in Tarpon Springs triple homicide

Two of Richard Ivancic's oldest children mourn the loss of their father, who was killed along with his new wife and adopted son. Still missing: an adopted daughter.
Published Jan. 8, 2019

UPDATE: The body found in Port Richey is that of Jamie Ivancic, the missing wife of the suspect in the Tarpon Springs slayings, relatives say. Full story

TARPON SPRINGS — Mike Ivancic stretched his arms out and, with Radiohead blasting in his ears Saturday, raised his body into downward dog in the very room where his father's family was found dead just four days earlier.

On New Year's Day, Tarpon Springs police said his father Richard Ivancic, 71; his stepmother Laura Ivancic, 59; and the couple's 25-year-old son, Nicholas Ivancic; were found dead in their house alongside their three dogs.

Still missing is 21-year-old Jamie Ivancic. Her husband, Shelby Svensen, 25, was found in Ohio and charged with the three murders.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man arrested in Ohio is suspect in slaying of wife's parents and brother at Tarpon Springs home

But investigators have not yet revealed what happened to the three victims, or identified the body found Sunday in the yard of the Port Richey home Svensen shared with his wife.

Mike Ivancic, 49, of St. Louis, spent all day Friday and Saturday morning cleaning up the blood staining his father's Juanita Way home. Then, to cope with his grief, he lit three candles, laid down three rugs on top of where each body was found and practiced yoga.

"There are eight of us total," he said, "and in one night, half of our family is gone."

• • •

Laura was Richard Ivancic's second wife. He married his high school sweetheart at 18 and after 10 years and four kids — including Mike Ivancic — the two separated.

Eventually, they met through a mutual friend in Cleveland. Richard and Laura Ivancic were happily married for 20 years, the 49-year-old son said.

"When my dad married Laura he said 'look she's not your mother and never will be your mother but I hope you can love her just as much," Mike Ivancic said. "And we did. It was easy to do so. She had such a big heart."

Richard and Laura Ivancic could not have children of their own, so they fostered children.

"I couldn't even tell you how many kids they fostered," said Richard Ivancic Jr., 52, the oldest of the father's first four children.

Eventually, the couple adopted Jamie when she was 1 and Nicholas when he was 4.

The Ivancic brothers said they believe their father and his wife wanted to help struggling children who came from a dysfunctional home.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Buried body may be tied to Tarpon Springs triple homicide

The couple loved Jamie and Nicholas like they were their own children, Mike Ivancic said. Richard and Laura Ivancic believed they could give them a happy family and home for them to grow up in.

But both brothers said Nicholas and Jamie struggled with mental health issues.

Nicholas Ivancic found help. He worked hard to overcome his drug addiction, his stepbrother said.

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"He didn't go sideways as much as he could've," Mike Ivancic said, "because he wanted to make my dad and Laura proud."

• • •

Richard Ivancic Jr. called police on New Year's Day and asked them to check on his father' house at 1954 Juanita Way. He hadn't heard from Richard Ivancic since Dec. 13. It was unlike him to ignore messages and phone calls for that long, the son said.

Someone had also noticed the air conditioner at the house was running nonstop, and a foul odor drifted from the walls.

Then police entered the house on Jan. 1 and found the decomposing bodies of the three Ivancic family members and their three dogs. Investigators have not yet said how they died, but believe they were killed up to a week earlier, either on Dec. 19 or 20.

Mike Ivancic's first thought when he found out what happened to the family: Where was Jamie? What happened to her two young children?

The children, ages 2 and 3, were found safe in Ohio with their father, who police said was found with Laura Ivancic's stolen SUV. The two children are in foster care in Ohio. The family said Laura Ivancic's brother hopes to adopt them.

Then on Sunday, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said it had discovered a body buried in the Port Richey yard of the home of Svensen and Jamie Ivancic. Deputies did not reveal any more information about that discovery on Monday.

Mike Ivancic said it will cost at least $18,000 to clean his father's Tarpon Springs house. He said it was a "gruesome mess" with blood everywhere. Valuables were also missing from the home: jewelry, family heirlooms and even video games that police said Svensen was seen selling at a Palm Harbor Gamestop.

The brothers said they don't know much about Svensen. Richard and Laura Ivancic never said anything bad about him.

Last year, Mike Ivancic said Jamie told him the two had split.

Her record shows a dodgy history. In 2016 she was involved in a domestic violence altercation with her current husband. According to a police report, Jamie hit and choked Ivancic. She already had another domestic violence case pending at the time.

And in Sept. 2017, Jamie was arrested for domestic violence against her foster parents.

"With Nick, I never saw malice in his actions," Mike Ivancic said. "But with Jamie I did."

Times staff writer Justin Trombly contributed to this report. Contact McKenna Oxenden at Follow @mack_oxenden.