27034 Jarvis Road—the house where Teresa Sievers was killed. Photo by Zach Stovall.

Newsmakers


The Sievers Murder Fallout

A look at how it has affected the once-quiet neighborhood.

Mary Kay Hart recited her address and the woman at Home Depot gasped.

Hart and her husband had recently decided to have a new set of black stainless-steel appliances delivered to their home on Jarvis Road.

“Oh,” the woman said, “that’s where that murder happened.”

“Yes, I know,” replied Hart, who lives on the same street as one of Southwest Florida’s most infamous murders. She is all too used to the reactions from the public, even from her friends and family as far away as Missouri, who had watched various angles of the crime play out on television for months on end in 2015.

For neighbors of the Sievers couple—Teresa, the mother and doctor bludgeoned at home in a murder allegedly orchestrated by her husband and office manager, Mark—the story, however shocking at the time, has become an old one by now.

“It bothers other people more than it bothers people who live on the street,” Hart says. “You don’t investigate something as much if it doesn’t affect you, and we wanted to find out things as soon as possible back then. Other people just sort of heard about it.” For those not as immersed around the time of the crime, she says, the horror remains more fresh.

Teresa Sievers (Photo by Charlie McDonald Photography.)

Now with the three men involved behind bars—one having pled guilty and two others at press time awaiting a June trial—it’s case closed for Hart and other residents of Jarvis Road, situated off East Terry Street between Old 41 and Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs.

By the first week of April this year, residents had already decorated for Easter. Pastel wreaths adorned front doors up and down the block, save the large pool home at 27034 Jarvis. Its white fence was sagging or broken in places and slick with algae in others. The yard, while recently mowed, was dotted with weeds. And perhaps worst of all for neighbors, there was no movement. No signs of life from the property where two young girls used to hold lemonade stands on the front lawn. Hart always stopped for the refreshments, and one time for the little drawings of flowers they were selling.

“Their dad was always out there with them, and I remember him saying that time, ‘Girls, it’s time to pack up. We have to get to church,’” Hart says. “And I thought, ‘Wow, church on a Wednesday night?’”

The property has sat empty for more than three years. Sold at auction in January following a foreclosure, it was listed on the market at the end of March. Hart is eager to see someone else move in, but as a Realtor, she knows it could take time.

“It takes a certain buyer,” she says. “Most people, if they know, they won’t even go in.”

Even before the murder, Kimberly Torres got a weird feeling from her neighbor, Mark Sievers.  She and her husband purchased their home next to 27034 Jarvis Road in 2009 in a short sale from Mark and Teresa Sievers when they were facing foreclosure.

The Sieverses had owned the adjoining properties at that time and had lived in the first home while building the second next door. And with two loans out from the bank, they were able to pay on only one, Torres says.

No one had lived in the old home for two years before Torres and her husband, a roofer, did a ton of work on the property. But from the day they moved in, Mark seemed to always be around. Watching.

“We did the closing at noon that day and we were moving things in that night around 5 to 6 p.m., little by little,” Torres says. “So while I was moving stuff in, Mark came in and was standing in the hallway, just standing there, staring. And I thought, ‘This used to be your house, but it’s not your house anymore.’”

Torres’ husband thought Mark Sievers was just overly friendly.

“My husband always talked to him, and I told him, ‘He’s a weirdo, I don’t know why you keep talking to him,’” Torres says.

But another night, Mark Sievers walked across the lawn to drop a bag of Chinese food on their patio table. The restaurant had delivered the wrong order, he explained, before walking off without another word.

And then there was the time, just a few weeks before the murder, when Mark Sievers appeared on the couple’s lanai when the pair was inside one evening. When they confronted him, he had an odd explanation.

“He said, ‘Oh I’ve just come to see what you’ve done with the place,’” Torres says. “Now, mind you, we had lived there six years at this point. And he had to go through three doors to get onto our lanai.”

And so, ultimately, the day of the murder felt both sudden and inevitable for Torres, who had always dreaded some kind of event involving Mark.

“It was shocking, but it wasn’t a surprise if that makes sense,” she says.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office cruisers and TV news vans flooded the street the day Teresa Sievers’ body was found bloodied and lifeless in her home, June 29, 2015.

A story would soon emerge wherein the Sievers family had flown to Connecticut to visit Teresa’s side of the family. Teresa had to return a few days early on that Sunday evening for work the following Monday. Mark and their two daughters stayed back to spend a few more days with family.

When Teresa did not show for work at her holistic medicine practice in Estero, a concerned co-worker told Mark, who sent a family friend to the house to check on his wife. The friend found Teresa cold to the touch in a pool of her own blood. A hammer lay next to her body. The friend called 911.

Neighbors weren’t sure at first whether the act had been a random one. Perhaps Teresa had walked in on a burglary in progress the night she arrived home and surprised her attacker, who killed her and fled.

Or maybe the home had been targeted in their absence.

“I don’t remember any of the neighbors saying they were afraid to come out,” Hart says. “Because it’s always on your mind that something could happen, you know, every day.”

Torres’ mother, Donetta Contreras, remembers things differently.

“Our doors were locked and every little noise that was going on, we were up and trying to check that nobody was trying to come in and get us,” she says. “We thought there was a murderer on the loose. And, there actually was.”

In the summary of the evidence affidavit released months later, LCSO notes that five separate neighbors recalled having heard Mark and Teresa arguing loudly from down the street over the years. The arguments were reportedly occasional, according to some neighbors, but others described them as a regular occurrence, the report showed. In at least one of those instances, Teresa was described as the aggressor. While the arguments were loud, none of the neighbors recalled any violence between the couple.

“I’m not sure what kind of marriage they had behind closed doors, but I can tell you that I heard them arguing quite often,” Torres says. “At one time I heard her screaming at Mark that she was divorcing him, and he was yelling, ‘We will see about that.’”

Still, authorities were tightlipped about a possible motive or suspects, and rumors swirled. Some wondered whether a disgruntled employee had murdered the doctor, or a former patient. For a time, a conspiracy theory surfaced linking the untimely deaths of other holistic doctors across the state and country. Spunky and stubborn as Teresa could be, few at that time blamed her loving husband, who was known as the biggest fan of his wife, the breadwinner, and who doted on their free-spirited daughters.

At Teresa’s funeral about a week later, Mark was in attendance and investigators had not yet voiced any leads to the public, instead reminding everyone to keep their homes locked. It wasn’t until a press conference that August that LCSO announced they had arrested two men in connection with the murder: Curtis Wayne Wright Jr. and Jimmy Ray Rodgers, both of Missouri.

“Who is going to come all the way from Missouri to target the house?” Hart wondered. Suspicion soon fell on Mark.

Months later, through court filings in Rodgers’ and Wright’s cases, news media caught wind of Mark Sievers’ alleged role in the plot. It is believed Mark asked his boyhood friend, Wright, to carry out the murder. Wright offered Rodgers, a former fellow inmate at Ste. Genevieve County Jail in Missouri, $10,000 to drive to Florida with him to kill Teresa.

The motive? About $4 million in life insurance policies and, prosecutors believed, a desire to effectively end the marriage while maintaining custody of the children.

Yet Mark would not be arrested until February of the next year, eight months after his wife was killed.

Those intervening months were the most difficult for Torres and her mother, Contreras, who lives on Allan Street, the road just east of Jarvis.

“He taunted us,” Contreras says. “It was a very scary time.”

Mark showed up on Torres’ front lawn one more time during that gap. Standing in the grass and peering into her window. Torres bought blackout curtains the next day and has kept them hanging in her home since. In hindsight, she believes Mark was planning the murder that time he was on her lanai, trying to ascertain her vantage point of his home. Trying to gauge what she might hear from her lot.

Contreras called to file a police report just days before Mark was arrested that February. She had been on her way to her daughter’s home after picking up her grandkids. They had a baseball game later that evening and had to stop home for their gear before going to the fields. As they turned onto Longfellow Lane from Matheson Road, they came up on Mark, who was stopped at the stop sign. Mark saw Contreras in his rearview mirror and lingered at the stop sign for what felt like three minutes, Contreras says.

When he finally began driving again, it was at about 5 miles per hour, she said. The behavior was so unnerving that Contreras almost didn’t go back for her grandson’s gear.

“That’s the kind of stuff he would do,” she says. “But two or three days later, he was arrested.”

Now, four years have passed and if she sits outside all day and counts, Torres still sees two or three people driving down Jarvis each day, rolling to a stop in front of her neighbor’s home and snapping a picture of it with their smartphones. At night the home is desolate, and that’s when she gets spooked.

“It kind of gives me chills,” she says. “It’s just hard to forget about what happened when it’s abandoned.”

Torres hopes a new homeowner will not only lift the cloud hanging over the home, for Torres at least, but also help deter gawkers.

“If we just get some movement in it and some normalcy, maybe the bad memories will start to fade,” she says.

And Torres and Contreras say they’ll be among the first to welcome a new homeowner, relieved when it finally happens.

For residents of the street who have never given interviews, the fixation on the case by the media, the phone calls and the knocks on their doors even years later have become insufferable. Many said they could have moved on from the crime sooner without the added attention of national news outlets. Most refused to comment for this story. One man described the hounding by reporters as unbearable.

A couple living down the street, on the same side of Jarvis Road, purchased their home just last year. They didn’t want to provide their names but said buying on Jarvis was just like buying on any other road. As former Naples residents, they knew of the murder but weren’t deterred when they saw a home they liked in their price range listed for sale on the same street. And they’ve found their new neighbors to be welcoming, normal people who have backyard barbecues and wave to each other as they drive past.

“If it was some random thing, that would be different,” the homeowner says of the murder. “But it was premeditated, so it didn’t worry me at all.”

That mentality may not bode for buyers of the home where the murder actually took place. Before the listing appeared, crime scene photos showed the layout of the home, the blood spatter on terra-cotta tiles in the kitchen and the doorway from the attached garage, where the family van was parked, to the inside of the home.

As of July, the home was listed for sale at $379,900. That’s a fair asking price, Hart says, for a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house at nearly 2,900 square feet. The home has a pool as well, though the lanai screens were blown out during Hurricane Irma. In listing photos, the pool steps are green and the water appears dark blue, almost black. But built on a double lot, the home boasts nearly a half-acre in an otherwise modest neighborhood.

Realtor Janice Gover is representing the property and says she’s confident the home will sell.

“It’s newer and bigger,” she says. “And we priced it really low anyway.”

Gover says foreclosure properties she sells usually sell within the first month.

“That’s because I get the best deals in Naples,” she says.

Asked about the murder affecting a potential sale, Gover says she isn’t worried. She usually has more trouble selling homes if they have a mold problem, and anyway, all homes sell at the right price eventually.

This home, Gover reiterates, was priced very well considering it’s one of the nicer homes in the neighborhood.

One neighbor, who refused to give his name, said his only concern with the sale of the home is that it could sell for such a low price that it later affects his own property values. Hart says that’s a legitimate concern.  

Gover isn’t worried.

“I don’t think people are concerned about it,” she says. “I don’t think most people believe in ghosts.”