Would you ever think that someone was plotting to murder you? You'd probably say "I HOPE NOT!" right? I don't think ANY of us would think that someone we knew would be thinking of a way to murder us, but shockingly, it happens. In today's day and age, it still surprises me that people think they can get away with murder - with all the technology that we have today, it's certainly not easy, and the more technology we have, the harder it will become.
I can't give away too much of this case as I don't want to spoil it for you, but this case was difficult to get through, it's a senseless crime and so many lives were destroyed because of it. Towards the end of this podcast episode, listen closely to the judge's voice and how it quivers....he struggles with his decision - it's tough, I definitely would not want to be in his shoes.
Transcribed Episode / S3 EP22: 1100 Miles to Murder • Teresa Sievers
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In 2003, 38 year old Mark Sievers from Missouri was visiting St. Petersburg Florida when he met 34 year old Teresa Tottenham and was instantly smitten. At the time, Mark was working as a nurse, and Teresa was recently divorced. It wasn’t long before the two were engaged and had a sunset wedding on the beach that same year. Six months later they had a daughter, Josephine, and in 2007 they had another daughter, Carmela.
Teresa, an established holistic medicine physician, moved with her husband and daughters to Bonita Springs, Florida where she opened up her own practice, Restorative Health & Healing Center and was also on staff at Naples Community Hospital.
Mark had worked in various careers throughout this life. He worked as a waiter, a transportation supervisor, he worked at a casino and at a nursing home. When the family moved to Bonita Springs, he helped out at Teresa’s clinic working part time as her office manager and was the main caretaker during the day for their daughters.
On the weekend of June 27th 2015, the Sievers traveled to Connecticut for a family reunion. Theresa planned to return home early by herself that Sunday because she had patients scheduled the next day.
The following morning, June 29th, Sandra Hoskins, Teresa’s longtime medical assistant, got into work, but by 9:00 she was wondering where the doctor was. Theresa was notoriously on time - she had never been late - so this was highly unusual. She knew that Teresa’s husband was still out of town, but tried calling him anyways, and Mark told her that he couldn’t get in touch with her either.
He decided to call a family friend, Dr. Mark Petrites, and left him a voicemail telling him that Teresa hadn’t shown up for work and asked him if he could go to their house to check on her.
When Dr. Petrites got to the house, he tried knocking on the front door but got no answer. So he went around to the garage to enter the house through there - on the voicemail, Mark had given him the code to enter the garage door. When he entered the garage, the interior door from the garage to the house was open. He then stepped into the house, brushing past a rolling suitcase that was sitting in the doorway. He saw her purse laying on the kitchen countertop and immediately saw Teresa laying on the floor in the kitchen in a pool of blood.
He reached down to touch her, but she was cold and lifeless and had obvious trauma to the back of her head. He then yelled out for the daughters, because he didn’t know if they were in the house or not, but got no response.
Dr. Petrites called Mark and asked him if his daughters were with him, he said they were, and he told Mark to come home right away, but didn’t tell him what he found inside the house. He then walked outside and called 911:
911 what is your emergency?
I'm at a friend's house. He's out of town and I came here to check on his wife and she's dead on the floor. The address is...
Okay stay on the line, sir, hold on, stay on the line.
Ambulance and fire, what is the address of the emergency? And is that a house or an apartment?
It's a house.
Tell me exactly what happened.
My friend, she's a doctor, I'm a doctor. She came home last night, her husband is in Connecticut and she was supposed to go into work at 9:00, they called me, and I was on my way into work so I swung by and she's dead on the floor. There's a hammer at the side and she's bashed at the back of the head.
Stay on the line with me. Sheriff's office are you on the way?
Yes we are.
So you said you are a doctor?
Yes I am.
Are you with her now?
I'm outside of the house, I don't know if there's anybody in the house.
How old is she?
She's 50's, 47ish.
Is she awake?
No she's dead on the floor. She's cold, the back of her head is bashed in and there's blood everywhere.
After the doctor got off the phone with 911, he called Mark back to tell him that his wife was hurt and that paramedics were there, but stopped short of telling him that she was dead. The only thing Mark asked him was if it was a robbery, but didn’t ask him how or where his wife had been hurt.
When the fire department arrived, they entered the door from the garage, saw the bloody scene inside the kitchen and knew it was obviously a crime scene, didn’t go any further and waited for law enforcement. Police arrived at the house around 11am. They assessed the scene and discovered a bloody hammer on the floor near her body and took it into evidence.
It wasn’t long before Mark returned home with the girls and met with law enforcement about what had happened. Mark and the girls had been in Connecticut during the murder, so of course officers thought he could not be the suspect.
During this time, there were some online conspiracy theories circulating that talked about Teresa being a possible serial killer victim. Two other Florida-based holistic doctors had also been murdered that same month, but although investigators looked into that possibility, they quickly hit a dead end.
Investigators searched the Sievers home and found that Theresa had set the alarm to the house before her family left for the reunion - but the alarm had been disabled before she had arrived back home. There were indications of forced entry to the home as pry marks were visible on a side entry door. Inside of the house, it was made clear pretty quickly that it was not a robbery gone wrong. Nothing in the home was taken. Investigators found $40,000 in cash and a large gun collection stored inside a safe that hadn’t been touched. But what was odd, was that police found no trace evidence at the scene, no DNA and no fingerprints on the hammer or on Teresa. It was almost a perfect murder.
An autopsy on Teresa was conducted and the cause of death was blunt force head trauma. She’d been struck with the hammer 17 times causing skull fractures and injuries to her brain, but the Medical Examiner said there was no way to tell how many hammers were used or how many assailants had killed her.
In addition to her head injuries, she had defensive wounds to her arms indicating she fought against her attacker.
With no suspect on the radar, it seemed like the investigation was hitting a brick wall, when suddenly the detectives caught a break. A tip was called in from someone in Missouri telling them that a man named Curtis Wayne Wright, a career criminal with a lengthy rap sheet, had confessed the crime to them.
Investigators now had a possible suspect. They homed in on Curtis Wright and began digging into his history and if he was connected to the Sievers in any way. Their digging produced another name…Jimmy Ray Rodgers, another career criminal who went by the nickname “Jimmy the Hammer.”
Detectives found out that Curtis was actually Mark Sievers' best friend - they’d been friends since high school and had attended each other’s weddings. The two men oddly resembled each other, each having bald heads and goatees and were about the same stature. Curtis would also often help service the computers at Teresa’s clinic.
On July 18th, Investigators headed to Missouri to question Curtis and Jimmy Ray. They questioned Jimmy Ray but didn’t come away with anything significant, so the detectives left their card and went on their way. About a month later, detectives came back to Jimmy Ray’s residence and began searching his trailer. While officers were doing the search, they spoke with Jimmy’s girlfriend, Taylor Shomaker. She told the officers that Jimmy Ray had thrown out various items a few ago and she could show him where they were. She admitted that Jimmy Ray had taken her for a ride along route 47 where he’d asked her to throw out parts of his cellphone, which he had smashed earlier, some gloves and a blue jumpsuit.
That night Taylor confronted Jimmy Ray and told him that she knew he had something to do with the murder:
[Trial Testimony: Taylor Shomaker]
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
What did you first say to him?
I was just like, I knew that you had something to do with this.
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
And then did you ask him a question?
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
What did you ask him?
I had asked him if he killed her with a gun.
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
And what did he say to you?
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
Did he tell you how he killed her?
He said they killed her with a hammer.
[Prosecutor: Cynthia Ross]
When he talked to you about the hammer, can you describe his demeanor, how he was acting or the tone of his voice when he said that.
He acted like it wasn't nothing to him, I don't know, he had like a little chuckle to, after he said it. It was like he had no remorse.
Jimmy had also told Taylor that he’d stand to make about $10,000 from the murder.
When investigators questioned Curtis, he initially denied he had been in Florida around the time of the murder or had any involvement with it. He then obtained an attorney and met again with detectives, at which time he was ready to tell them about his involvement with the murder.
Curtis admitted to committing the crime along with Jimmy Ray Rogers, but also dropped a huge bombshell. He told them that the murder had been orchestrated by none other than Teresa’s husband Mark Sievers.
Curtis went on to explain how the plan came about and what happened the weekend of the murder.
On May 2nd 2015, Curtis was getting married and Mark was going to be the Best Man. The night before the wedding, Mark took Curtis aside and told him there was something important he wanted to talk to him about.
He told Curtis that he was having marriage problems and financial issues, and that Teresa was cheating on him and was planning on leaving him taking his daughters away from him and there was no way he could afford to fight for custody.
The next morning, the day of the wedding, Mark and Curtis continued their conversation, and Mark told him that the kids were in danger if she took them, and he couldn’t let that happen. Curtis suggested counseling or maybe fighting for custody of the kids, but Mark said neither was an option. He said the ONLY option was for his wife to die.
Let’s take a listen to that insane conversation told by Curtis at trial:
[Trial Testimony: Curtis Wayne Wright]
[Prosecutor: Hamid Hunter]
Did he ask you to do anything?
Yeah we talked about some more options, really it was the same options just brought back up. When we kind of exhausted that, he told me really the option he had was for her to die.
When he asked, I asked when, what type of time frame he was looking at, and he said as soon as possible.
Let’s stop and think about that conversation for a minute - the day of your wedding, your best friend comes to you, tells you he’s having problems in his marriage, and bluntly asks you to kill his wife? And all you can say is “when do you want it done?” No, “wow, that’s a horrible thing to ask” or maybe think about going to the police, or tell somebody what horrible thing he’s wanting done so they can protect Teresa or let her know? Well, let’s remember that Curtis had a criminal history so maybe this “ask” wasn’t so strange after all.
So Curtis was shocked but not shocked enough and asked him when did he want it done and how much money would be available for it - Mark told him they had a lot of insurance money, that he had about $100,000 for it. Mark made it clear that he didn’t want to be involved in the killing, was just literally the middle man. Curtis left the conversation by saying “he would see what he could do.”
Mark went on to tell Curtis that he needed to get a burner phone - basically a disposable cell phone - and Mark would do the same - that they couldn’t have the conversations about the planning on their own personal phones.
The two men continued to speak about the plan and Mark didn’t really go into detail about how he wanted Teresa killed, but he did tell Curtis that he wanted it to look like a robbery gone bad. The men decided that weapons weren’t necessary, but since it was supposed to look like a robbery, they could just use a household tool or object at the house to kill Teresa.
Curtis decided to contact his friend, 29 year old Jimmy Ray Rodgers. Jimmy Ray had attended Curtis’ wedding and the two had been cellmates at the Sainte Genevieve County Jail in Missouri back in 2010. Curtis knew Jimmy Ray had been involved in other murders so assumed he would be more than willing to help, especially when a significant amount of money was involved.
The men discussed where the murder was going to place. Some ideas were thrown out and it was suggested that they could ambush Teresa at her clinic when she got off work - she’d be alone and it would be dark. Then Mark told his family was going on a trip to Connecticut but that Teresa would be heading home early by herself. Mark and the girls would be staying back in Connecticut for a few more days, so it would be the perfect opportunity.
So on June 27, 2015, Curtis rented a car in Hillsboro Missouri and went to pick up Jimmy Ray Rodgers. The two men headed to Bonita Springs Florida, an 1100 mile, 17 hour drive. So focused on what they were about to do in Florida, didn’t stop to realize that their entire drive was being digitally tracked by the GPS navigation system in the rental car, including data from cell towers and security cam footage. Every stop and destination they’d make, they entered it into the car’s GPS system.
After driving all day, authorities estimated that Curtis and Jimmy arrived at the Sievers home in Florida at around 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 28th. Police believe the men entered the house, disabled the security alarm - Mark had given the code - then got back into their car.
The men then went to a nearby Walmart. Security footage from Walmart showed the two men shopping in complete view of the cameras - not trying at all to hide their identities - then showed them leaving with suspicious purchases including wipes, trash bags, black towels, black shoes, and a lock-picking kit. They paid for it all in cash with a $100 bill.
They then left Walmart and drove to a local beach. After spending some time at the beach, they went back to the Sievers house. When they got back to the house they scoped out the inside of the house so they could see the layout and know how to navigate it.
Teresa landed at the Southwest Florida International Airport and made the 17 mile drive to her home in Bonita Springs.
She pulled into the garage a little before 11:30pm. Unknown to her, Curtis and Jimmy Ray were waiting for her in the garage and inside the house.
Teresa grabbed her luggage and left it at the front of her car while she opened the interior house door. She walked in and set her purse down on the kitchen counter…closely followed by Curtis Wright who had picked up a hammer in the garage. When Curtis entered the house behind her, he tripped over a dog dish, alarming Teresa to his presence and when she turned around he struck her in the head with the hammer. He continued to strike her while Teresa put her arms up trying to defend herself.
[Trial Testimony: Curtis Wayne Wright]
[Prosecutor: Hamid Hunter]
What did she do when you hit her in the head?
She continued to turn towards me, she put her hands up and was trying to defend herself.
[Prosecutor: Hamid Hunter]
[Prosecutor: Hamid Hunter]
She fought for her life?
Yes, she was surprised. I actually think that she thought I was Mark...she said "why?"
Jimmy Ray - who also had a hammer - then began striking Teresa as well, multiple times, until Curtis went over and told him to stop. The men then left the house, but Curtis had left behind his hammer on the floor next to Teresa’s body.
After Curtis confessed all of this to investigators, police pulled the GPS records from the rental car and cell phone tower records, and also pulled surveillance video footage from the route that the two men had taken to then go back to Jimmy Ray with the evidence. Jimmy Ray initially denied his involvement until detectives confronted him with the GPS data.
Two months after Theresa’s murder, in August 2015, authorities arrested Curtis Wayne Wright and Jimmy Ray Rodgers.
After tracking the pair's route from Missouri, authorities found the blue jumpsuit that Jimmy Ray had allegedly worn on the night of the murder, crumpled up on the side of Highway 47. Forensics found that fibers from the jumpsuit matched the fibers found on Teresa Sievers' dress.
Although they had the assailants that had murdered Teresa in custody, authorities then focused their attention on the mastermind behind the murder. With the evidence from Curtis that Mark was unhappy in his marriage and afraid that his wife would get full custody of his daughters, and with Curtis agreeing to testify against Mark to his involvement in the planning, police arrested Mark in February 2016 and charged him with first-degree murder and the conspiracy to commit murder.
Mark Sievers trial began on November 12, 2016. During his trial, Mark’s defense tried to point blame onto the prosecutor’s key witness Curtis Wright, saying that he was an unreliable source of information given that he had committed various crimes, including murder, and that he lied to authorities early on in the investigation.
In addition to the damning GPS evidence from the rental car, the prosecution presented cell phone data evidence that indicated that Mark and Curtis had communicated through burner phones in the weeks leading up to Teresa’s death. Curtis’ phone had also pinged near Mark’s home on the morning of Teresa’s murder.
Also brought into evidence was the fact that Teresa had a $ 4 million life insurance policy. Prosecutors laid out the Sievers relationship. Teresa, being a therapist, was the breadwinner of the family. Mark hadn’t really “worked” a full time job in several years and felt inadequate in the marriage and that he was mooching off of his wife. It was discovered that both Mark and Teresa had numerous affairs and Mark would often exchange lusty text messages with other women.
Starting in 2015, Mark detailed in a digital journal the ups and down of his 12 year marriage to Teresa. The entries indicate Mark’s increasing frustration and depression over the state of his marriage.
He wrote about his mistrust in Teresa, thinking she had cheated on him, and that he was always the one who wanted to be intimate and have sex. In fact, in text messages between him and his wife, Mark seemed to be obsessed with sex. He’d use his calendar on his phone to document their sexual encounters.
Mark admitted in the journal that both of them were losing their attractiveness to each other, and how the two spent very little time together and when they did, it was annoying because he felt rejected.
On June 5th, 13 days before the murder, Mark wrote that Teresa would say that sometimes, actually most of the time, she didn’t feel as if they were going to make it. Although their marriage seemed to be coming to an end, Teresa would say that she didn’t want a divorce. Mark knew that if they did separate, he expected to get full custody of their two daughters - with Teresa having visitation with the girls - because he was their main caretaker while Teresa worked full time.
All of this painted a clear picture of a man who was unhappy and unsatisfied with his marriage, and didn’t want his wife to benefit and take their children away from him if they were to divorce.
After deliberating for just 4 hours, the jury came back with their verdict:
[Trial: Jury Verdict]
We the jury found as follows as the defendant in this case. Count 1 first degree murder: the defendant is guilty of first degree murder. Conspiracy: the defendant is guilty of conspiracy. So say we all, December 4, 2019 by the foreperson.
Mark Sievers was found guilty and faced a possible death sentence. In the penalty phase of the trial, prior to sentencing, Teresa’s mother, Mary Ann Groves, read a statement in court that truly represented the grief of a mother who lost her daughter in the worst way imaginable:
[Sentencing Phase of Trial: Mary Ann Groves]
[Mary Ann Groves]
She won't be there to cheer them on, and support them, to share their dreams and successes. Theresa was a gift from God and a gift to all of us, and we will miss her every day for the rest of our lives.
During his sentencing hearing, Mark’s attorney read statements from his daughters, telling the judge that they didn’t wish for their father to be put to death. Having already lost their mother, losing their father’s life as well would be unbearable.
Mark Sievers also read quite the statement in court prior to sentencing, maintaining his innocence and emotionally pleading for his life:
[Sentencing Phase of Trial: Mark Sievers]
Although a jury found me guilty, I am innocent of all charges, since I've maintained since this heinous crime took place. I love my wife Theresa and our two daughters Josie and Carmie with all my heart. Our girls have tragically lost their mommy and now they're about to lose their Daddy as well. Therefore I respectfully ask the court for Life, as not to compound their loss and suffering. I am grateful, however, that the court can only determine my fate on earth, as my soul is in God's hands.
The statements, however, didn’t make much of an impact at all on the judge’s mind, and Mark was ultimately sentenced to death. For the second charge of conspiracy to commit murder he was sentenced to 30 years, to be served concurrently.
Following the sentence, the judge had this poignant statement to say as well:
[Sentencing Phase of Trial: Judge Bruce Kyle]
[Judge Bruce Kyle]
I judge people's actions, I don't judge people's souls, that's for somebody else to do. Sir I'm going to go ahead and adjudicate you guilty on each count. On the first count, first degree murder, it's the order of the court that you be sentenced to death, sir. On the second count, conspiracy, I'm going to sentence you to 30 years in prison consecutive to count one. If I'm wrong, hopefully God will have mercy on both of us.
Taking a plea deal, 51 year old Curtis Wayne Wright was sentenced to 25 years for second-degree murder. Part of the plea deal was that Curtis testified against Mark and Jimmy Ray.
Jimmy Ray Rodgers was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for second-degree murder. Jimmy Ray had only been out of federal prison for less than a year when the murder was committed.
We hear about these types of cases often, probably more often than we should, and if you’re into following crime cases, we all say the same thing “it’s always the husband” and 9 out 10 times - or should I say 9.99 out of 10 times, it usually is.
It never ceases to amaze me how individuals can come to a point in their It never ceases to amaze me how individuals can come to a point in their lives of such desperation and frankly, madness, that they feel that murder is the solution, or the only way out. It’s possible that Mark felt that his financial inequality and inadequacy in the marriage left him with no options. To this day, Mark continues to claim his innocence.
But sadly, Teresa Sievers wasn’t the only victim in this case. Two daughters were left without a mother and a father. After the murder of their mother and subsequent arrest of their father, the Department of Children and Families placed the girls with another family in the area while they vetted the people who had volunteered to care for them.
Mary Ann Groves, Teresa’s mother, had applied for temporary custody of the girls, claiming that they had suffered severe psychological and emotional trauma from what had happened. She was granted custody of both girls on May 16, 2016. Mark’s mother Bonnie, had also requested temporary custody of the children, but her request was denied by the judge. Josephine is now 17 years old and Carmela is 14 and their current whereabouts are unknown. My heart aches for her two girls, and I’m certain they have held onto those precious memories of their mother as they move forward courageously through life.
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Naples Daily News: 911 Call 911 call: Teresa Sievers homicidehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE0jz_C7-P8
Law&Crime: Mark Sievers Trial Day 7 - Taylor Shomaker - Jimmy Rodgers' Former Girlfriend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xZd0hH3_og&t=1645s
Law&Crime: Mark Sievers Trial Day 2 - Curtis Wayne Wright - Cooperating Co defendant Part 1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIcByXjCVEo
Law&Crime: Mark Sievers Trial Day 2 - Curtis Wayne Wright - Cooperating Co defendant Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaW0njGQ7EE
Law&Crime: Mark Sievers Trial - Verdict https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsp28lRoSzc
Law&Crime: Mark Sievers Penalty Phase - Victim Impact Statement - Mary Ann Groves - Victim's Mother https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyfwE2nb4DQ
NCB2News: Mark Sievers makes statement in court https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEDSHCfSu44
NBC2News: Mark Sievers sentencing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Se67-GqLw