Leaving a family holiday early might seem like an unusual thing for a mum to do, but as well as being devoted to her two young daughters, Doctor Teresa Sievers had also made a lifelong commitment to her patients.
Whether it was dedicating her time to family or strangers, Teresa’s compassion was equal. That’s why she was so admired and respected.
It was June 2015 and Teresa, 46, had been visiting her family in upstate New York with her husband Mark and their two girls, aged eight and 11.
But Teresa had left them to enjoy a few more days, and had caught an earlier flight back home to Bonita Springs, Florida, so she could go into work.
Mark, her husband of over 10 years, stayed with the girls. He was used to his wife’s career and proudly supported her.
Teresa was a holistic physician who ran her own medical practice. She combined her knowledge of western medicine with a respect for Eastern medicine, to successfully treat her patients with a blend of traditional and alternative methods.
Teresa was a compassionate healer, but she was outgoing and always pushed for what she believed in.
Teresa took a flight home on Sunday 28 June ready for her patients the next morning, but her colleagues were very surprised when the doctor didn’t show up. It was unheard of.
They called her, and Mark, but nobody could reach her. Then a visit to her home revealed Teresa had made it back to the house that night – but had never left.
Teresa was found dead on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood with a bloodstained hammer beside her. She’d been hit with the weapon at least 17 times, crushing her skull and causing devastating injuries.
Investigators believed she’d arrived home from her flight, had walked into the kitchen and been attacked. Had Teresa interrupted a robbery? There were signs of a forced entry, but confusingly, cash and valuables in the house hadn’t been taken.
When word of Teresa’s death became public knowledge, other theories started to circulate. There were reports of other alternative doctors dying in suspicious circumstances in the US. Were they connected?
Police also turned their attention to patients who might have had an issue with Teresa – whose focused determination could sometimes come across as abrasive – but any leads came to nothing.
Mark Sievers was acting very oddly for a man who had just lost his wife. The day before her funeral he was at the beach inviting people back to his house for a pool party and he was cold when people tried to comfort him.
Everyone assumed the shock was making him act out of character. Everyone grieves differently and Sievers had been miles away at the time, so any suspicions that he’d played a part were quashed.
Then, acting on a tip-off, police started to investigate Curtis Wayne Wright, 51, a man who lived 1,000 miles away in Missouri and coincidentally had an uncanny resemblance to Sievers.
He’d rented a car that weekend, and the GPS showed he’d driven to Florida – specifically to the Sievers’ house.
He hadn’t travelled alone either. Wright had made the trip with Jimmy Ray Rodgers, 29, a man who had given himself the nickname Jimmy ‘The Hammer’ Rodgers.
They’d met while in prison together. Wright was inside on drug charges and Rodgers was doing time for weapon charges.
Both men were arrested for Teresa’s murder. But why did two men drive 1,000 miles to kill a woman?
Sievers and Wright had grown up together in Missouri and had remained best friends all their lives. Wright had gone to Teresa and Mark’s wedding, and had even attended Teresa’s funeral.
Wright had done some work on the computers at Teresa’s clinic and Sievers had been best man at Wright’s wedding.
There seemed to be no reason why Wright would take a violent friend on a road trip to murder his best friend’s wife. Was Wright jealous of the Sievers family? How had they known Teresa was alone that day – or was the whole family the target?
The evidence was slowly pieced together, and police believed they knew what had happened. On the morning of June 27, Wright had picked up a rental car, and Rodgers, and had driven 1,100 miles to Bonita Springs – they had driven all day and all night. GPS showed they had arrived at the Sievers’ home.
They went off to a local supermarket and were seen on CCTV buying trash bags, wet wipes, black towels and a lock-picking kit. Then they returned to the Sievers’ house and waited in the garage for Teresa to return. GPS showed they drove the 17 hours back to Missouri in the early hours of Monday morning.
A motive was still undetermined but then, after initially denying being involved, Wright started talking. He admitted he and Rodgers had killed Teresa. The reason? Because Sievers had told them to. It had all been his idea.
More probing revealed that Sievers and Teresa were having marital problems along with some serious financial issues. There were several life insurance policies on Teresa’s life, totalling over $4 million.
Wright said Sievers had promised to pay him $10,000 to kill Teresa in a sickening murder-for-hire scheme. Sievers was arrested and it sent shockwaves through the community.
Once Wright started talking, he wouldn’t stop and he brought the whole plot down. He made a deal and was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder if he testified at Sievers and Rodgers’ trials, in return for a lesser sentence.
First to face trial was Jimmy Rodgers in October 2019 and Wright was the star witness. When asked who had killed Dr Sievers, he replied, ‘I did and Jimmy Rodgers.’
Wright said he hit Teresa three times and then Rodgers had taken the hammer and continued to hit her ‘over and over’ again. The motive was the money that Sievers promised them once the job was done.
Sievers didn’t testify but his lawyers said it was Wright who had beaten Teresa to death and that his word couldn’t be trusted. ‘Curtis Wright’s the only one that ever hit that woman and he’s lying to you to save his own worthless skin…’ they said.
‘Jimmy didn’t have a hammer.’ But the jury found Rodgers guilty of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.
Next to face a jury was Sievers and again, Wright was there to testify against his former best friend who he referred to as his ‘brother from another mother’.
‘Jimmy Rodgers and I physically did it, but Mark Sievers was also involved in the planning,’ Wright told the court, adding that it was planned by Sievers because he had money problems.
He believed Teresa was planning on leaving him and would take the kids. Wright said Sievers told him having his wife killed was the only option.
Sievers was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the plot to kill his wife.
In January this year, Sievers made a statement at his sentencing saying he was innocent and heartbroken, adding that Teresa was his soulmate. ‘Although a jury found me guilty, I am innocent of all charges,’ he said.
The judge told him, ‘I judge people’s actions. I don’t judge people’s souls. That’s for somebody else to do.’ He then sentenced Sievers, 51, to the death penalty.
Wright received his 25-year sentence in February this year. ‘I wish that there was a way, anything at all I could do to change what happened,’ he said. ‘I can’t and it will be with me for the rest of my life and I’m truly sorry.’
For Teresa’s family, it had been a long five-year wait for justice, but the pain of losing Teresa was just as raw. Mary Ann Groves, Teresa Sievers’ mother, made a victim impact statement about her extraordinary daughter who was making a difference in the world,
‘My granddaughters have broken hearts that will never be mended,’ Mary said.
‘They will spend their lives hoping to hold onto the memories of their mother they once knew and trying to forget the nightmare she endured in the last moments of her life.’
Sievers had conspired to kill his wife and had hired his best friend to help him. It was a brutal end for a woman who was trying to save lives.
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