Man sent wife's family texts, pictures from her phone for months. Now they are dead too.
The mobile homes on Juanita Way are slotted tightly together, part of a community in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where retirees fleeing from the iron winters up north can kick up their feet and enjoy the Florida sun. Richard and Laura Ivancic, 71 and 59, respectively, fit in. Originally from Cleveland, the couple had lived for some time in a small house with mint-green siding, along with their 25-year-old son, Nicholas, and three small dogs -- Buddy, Boomer and Bailey.
But last December, little things reportedly started grabbing the attention of the neighbors. The Ivancics' air-conditioning was always running. A strange smell crept out from the property. And a short, young man was spotted digging in a trench in the front yard. "[L]ike somebody's digging a grave," a neighbor would later tell Fox 13.
On New Year's Day, police pulled up to the mint-green house to perform a wellness check. Inside, they found Richard, Laura and Nicholas. All had been beaten to death. The dogs had also been killed.
As investigators began trying to make sense of a bloody scene in Tarpon Springs, police learned that the Ivancics' other daughter, Jamie Ivancic, was also missing, as were her two children. Two days after the discovery of the bodies in Florida, Jamie's husband, Shelby Svensen, was caught outside Cleveland driving Richard Ivancic's SUV along with the kids, ages 2 and 3.
According to a news conference on Tuesday held by officials from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in Florida, not only did Svensen, 25, tell investigators in Ohio he was behind the Juanita Way murders, he also pointed police to another body. Authorities revealed this week that Jamie's remains were discovered buried in the yard of a house she had shared with Svensen in Port Richey, Florida.
Shockingly, Pasco Sheriff's Col. Jeff Harrington told reporters on Tuesday that Svensen also has confessed to killing Jamie -- but not in the recent burst of violence. The 21-year-old was killed more than a year ago. No one had reported her missing because Svensen deceived her family with fake text messages and other evasions, leading them to think she was still safe.
"At this point, it would appear he was able to just trick them into thinking she was unavailable or she was somewhere else," Harrington said Tuesday. "This is a situation where you have somebody who engaged in horrific criminal activity."
Svensen is being held in Ohio on three counts of first-degree murder. He is awaiting extradition back to Florida.
Laura was Richard's second wife, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Because the couple could not have their own children, they served as foster parents for kids in need of a home. "I couldn't even tell you how many kids they fostered," Richard Ivancic Jr., the father's oldest child from his first marriage, told the Times.
Both Nicholas and Jamie were adopted by the couple as young kids. In early 2016, Jamie met Svensen, her future husband, who was friends with Nicholas at the time. The couple married in November 2017, according to the Times.
It was Svensen's second marriage. Cleveland 19 News reported he was previously convicted of domestic violence against his first wife in 2013 after Svensen turned violent when his then-wife would not allow him and his friends to smoke marijuana in the house.
The relationship between Svensen and Jamie seems to have also been rocky. Jamie's sister, Karma Stewart, told the Times that the two spoke over a FaceTime call on Jan. 25, 2018. During the conversation, Jamie said she was planning on taking the two kids and leaving Svensen.
However, after that phone call, Stewart never spoke directly with Jamie, she told the Times. Instead, she received the occasional text or pictures of the children from Jamie's phone throughout 2018. A friend also told the newspaper that Laura Ivancic reported she too had only spoken to her daughter through texts and photos of the kids.
At the same time, Svensen was telling family members his wife was working or too busy to talk on the phone, according to Harrington of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
"For a significant period of time, there was no direct communication between her family members and her," he said Tuesday at the news conference. "He was making statements to the family that she was unavailable, and perhaps he was communicating through various mechanism to pose as her."
In reality, Jamie was dead and buried under the lawn in Port Richey. Harrington said it appeared Jamie was killed at the house. Police have yet to release a cause of death.
"I feel betrayed and that I was played," Stewart told the Times. "I didn't expect the worst when I probably should have."
Law enforcement would not comment on why Svensen killed Jamie's family a year after she was killed. Jewelry and heirlooms had been taken from the Tarpon Springs mobile home, as were video games. Svensen was reportedly spotted selling the games at a GameStop after the killings.
When Svensen returns to Florida, Harrington said he would face murder charges. The two children are currently in foster care in Ohio.