When a Largo lawyer went missing last week, the circumstances could not have been more mysterious.
Steven Cozzi’s last known location was his law office’s building. Blood was found in the restroom, along with a strong smell of chemicals. Cozzi’s wallet and keys were still at his office. His cellphone was there, too, playing music. He had been in the middle of an email.
Largo police issued a four-sentence news release three days later, stating Cozzi had vanished under “suspicious circumstances.” Outside of that, little was known publicly about what had happened, and rumors stirred the legal community.
On Sunday, there was news of an arrest — a Pinellas plastic surgeon, Tomasz Kosowski, who had faced off in court with the missing lawyer, was booked on a first-degree murder charge. But details still were scarce.
On Monday, new court filings showed how investigators pieced together a murder case against Kosowski, even though Cozzi’s body had not been found as of late Monday. And perhaps most shockingly, the records show that police believe Cozzi was likely attacked inside his law office, then wheeled out to a vehicle in a large cart and driven to the surgeon’s Tarpon Springs home.
Kosowski, 44, is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in 2019, and Cozzi was one of the attorneys representing several of the defendants, according to court records.
Largo police began investigating after Cozzi was reported missing at his office at Blanchard Law, 1501 S Belcher Road. The person who contacted police went searching for Cozzi in the office building’s public bathroom and found blood on the bathroom door, stall wall and bottom of the toilet, according to an arrest affidavit.
The only unsecured entrance to the building was through the main lobby doors, which are monitored by surveillance video, investigators found.
Surveillance footage from the main entrance showed a gray Toyota Tundra arriving at the building at 8:32 a.m., according to the affidavit. Two minutes later, an unidentified man entered the building wearing a backpack and gloves and carrying a large box.
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At 8:37 a.m., Cozzi arrived at the building. He was wearing a red sweater, police found while reviewing the surveillance footage.
At 10:22 a.m., the surveillance video showed a man with a similar build to the man who arrived in the Toyota Tundra leaving the building and wearing the same backpack, though he appeared to have changed clothes.
The man pulled a large cart containing what appeared to be a red bag or blanket, police said. The man appeared to struggle with the weight of the cart as he pulled it to the Tundra, according to the affidavit.
Both Cozzi and Kosowski were supposed to attend a hearing by telephone at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, but Cozzi was not present during the hearing. Kosowski attended the hearing from 10:28 a.m. to 11:04 a.m., according to the affidavit.
As soon as Kosowski disconnected from the hearing, surveillance shows the man at the law office begin to move again, according to the affidavit. At 11:05 a.m., the man was recorded repositioning the cart near the truck. Footage later showed the person struggling to get the cart onto the bed of the Tundra pickup truck, police said. Cozzi is never seen exiting the building on surveillance footage, according to the affidavit.
During the investigation at the office, forensics found that “a large quantity of blood” had been cleaned up from the bathroom floor. Investigators also found white fibers in the bathroom and in Cozzi’s vehicle, according to the affidavit. Kosowski’s left index fingerprint was also found in the building’s breaker room, which isn’t normally accessed by the public, police said.
The Toyota Tundra was driven to Kosowski’s home in Tarpon Springs, passing a license plate reader camera around 11:51 a.m., police said. An image from the camera showed a cart with a red bag or blanket that appeared to contain a human body in the bed of the pickup truck, according to the affidavit. The truck arrived at Kosowski’s home at 11:58 a.m. Tuesday, police said.
Kosowski’s red Toyota Corolla was seen being driven away from the area around his home at 4:58 p.m. Tuesday, and later showed up on tag readers in Miami, according to the affidavit.
On Thursday, police served a search warrant on Kosowski’s home and found the same Toyota Tundra that had been caught on the office’s surveillance video. Forensic investigators found blood in the bed of the truck, as well as the driver’s side headrest and floorboard, and in the garage where the Tundra was parked, according to the affidavit.
The Tundra had an unassigned tag on it and was not registered, police said. Kosowski bought the vehicle in October 2022, but never registered it or recorded the title, according to the affidavit. However, the seller recorded the vehicle’s sale to Kosowski with the state.
Tarpon Springs police stopped Kosowski while he was driving in Pinellas County on Saturday and executed a search warrant for his Corolla. Police found a ballistic vest with “a substantial amount of blood” on it, as well as red and white fibers, according to the affidavit.
Police also found a bag on the passenger floorboard that contained a Taser, masks, duct tape, brass knuckles, succinylcholine — a paralyzing agent — and “intravenous sedatives” with syringes, according to the affidavit.
Kosowski was taken into custody and booked in the Pinellas County Jail around 4:15 a.m. Sunday.
“Due to the large quantity of blood located at the crime scene, the defendant’s home and vehicle, along with the fact that the subject removed a container large enough to conceal a human body and the victim was never seen exiting the business on surveillance it is believed that the victim is deceased and the defendant intentionally, by a premeditated design caused his death,” the affidavit states.
Kosowski made his first court appearance via video conference from the Pinellas County Jail, where he was being held without bail, on Monday afternoon. His attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, asked that Kosowski’s bail hearing be pushed back.
“Keep an open mind and keep in mind the fact that he’s a doctor and he’s presumed innocent, despite the nature of the charges,” Brunvand told reporters outside the courthouse.
The St. Petersburg Bar Association started a GoFundMe to raise money for Cozzi’s family and community members took to social media to recall his legacy, including Hoyt Prindle, a Tampa attorney.
Both were law students at Stetson in Gulfport. When Prindle went on his campus tour, Cozzi was his tour guide.
They weren’t close friends, Prindle said, but he remembers Cozzi as a friendly and helpful face around campus.
“Very nice, pretty straightforward, a straight shooter,” Prindle said of Cozzi in a phone interview Monday. “I’d ask questions and he was always helpful.”
Times Staff Writer Matt Cohen contributed to this report.