Body buried in Pinellas yard identified as elderly woman
By DEBORAH O'NEIL and MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
SEMINOLE -- Before Matt Saric died at age 93, he asked his brother to take care of his wife, Mary.
So Anthony Saric, in his 80s, tried to fulfill his brother's wish himself. But tending to his elderly sister-in-law eventually proved too difficult. Three years ago, he placed Mary in a home where he thought she would be safe, paying Barbara Gotsis $2,500 a month for her care.
But Saric became troubled, his lawyer says, when Gotsis started making excuses about why he could not see Mary. Saric last saw her alive a year ago, when she was 89.
On Thursday, authorities confirmed that Mary L. Saric was one of two bodies unearthed in Gotsis' back yard last weekend. The Medical Examiner's Office used medical records to identify the body, but authorities are still trying to determine how and when she died.
"I'm holding out hope, and absent any evidence otherwise, the family has just chosen to believe she died of natural causes," said Bill Foster, Anthony Saric's St. Petersburg lawyer. "She didn't have anything terminal, and death was not imminent but when you are 90, you can die at any time."
Anthony Saric declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to Foster.
Mary Saric was born Dec. 31, 1910. She moved to St. Petersburg in 1978 from Chicago with her husband after he retired from U.S. Steel Corp. They were married for 63 years. Mary Saric, who suffered from polio as a child, had no children.
Foster said the family plans to bury her beside her husband in St. Petersburg.
The identification is the first breakthrough in a bizarre case that began last weekend when authorities found two bodies buried in Gotsis' back yard at 11488 Robert Drive. Gotsis, 60, died in a fall in her back yard on April 22, a week before the bodies were discovered. Authorities are trying to determine whether Gotsis' death was an accident or suicide.
In recent months, Anthony Saric had grown tired of Gotsis' excuses and demanded to see Mary. Gotsis told him to visit her on April 22. When Saric knocked on the door at 4 p.m. that day, no one answered.
"Little did he know, when he was banging on the front door, Barbara lay dead in the back yard with these two other bodies," Foster said. "As far as physical location, it was very close to the site of where she buried the two bodies."
Medical officials are still working to identify the other body, which was encased in cement in a shallow grave. Authorities have said they think Gotsis likely acted alone and that her husband and daughter, who lived at the house with her, are not suspects.
Sheriff's officials are investigating whether Gotsis defrauded Saric out of as much as $30,000 by taking money from the family after the woman died.
"We're still reviewing financial records," said Lt. Steve Shipman of the Sheriff's Office.
Foster said he will now turn his attention to Gotsis' estate.
"I think we can easily prove Barbara received $30,000 or more for services that were not rendered," Foster said. "Not only is that a crime, it's recoverable by Mary's estate if Barbara indeed has assets."
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