A homeless man has been arrested and charged in connection with the 2003 murder of a German woman living in Sarasota whose body was never found, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office announced Monday.
John Alan Mellquist, 53, was arrested Friday and charged in the murder of Anneliese Schweickardt, the sheriff's office said in a news release. Authorities say Mellquist rented a room in Schweickardt's Monte Rosso Road home, and that she was in the process of evicting him at the time of her disappearance.
A missing person's case was opened in October 2003 when a childhood friend in Germany reported she had stopped receiving regular contact from Schweickardt six months earlier. Schweickardt, a German citizen who lived in the United States on a tourist visa, had no immediate family in this country, officials said.
"When initially contacted, Mellquist gave different accounts of her possible whereabouts," a sheriff's office spokesperson said. "It was later learned that he forged and cashed checks from her bank account and used her vehicle after she had disappeared."
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Detectives and crime scene investigators found signs of "a violent encounter inside the home, including significant blood stain evidence that indicate she was likely murdered." A probable cause affidavit shows investigators found that a large amount of blood had been mopped up from the kitchen and hallway floors and that Mellquist's fingerprints were found on the handle of a mop in the laundry room.
Blood marks found in the garage "appeared to be drag marks and were consistent with a bloodied body being dragged across the floor," the affidavit states.
"These discoveries coupled with what detectives believe are lies during their questioning of Mellquist led them to suspect that he had killed her," the sheriff's office said Monday.
Detectives said they have kept track of Mellquist over the years and located him living in a tent in a wooded area near Ortiz Boulevard and U.S. 41 in Warm Mineral Springs. He was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree murder. He is being held without bond.
Without the discovery of a body or any immediate family, authorities said it has taken years to build a DNA profile for Schweickardt from personal items left in her home.
Though DNA testing continues, the sheriff's office said it had sufficient evidence to arrest Mellquist now.
Detectives conferred with the State Attorney's Office throughout the investigation and are preparing for Mellquist's prosecution.
Victim Was Afraid of Mellquist
Schweickardt had bought her two-bedroom home on Monte Rosso Road, just south of University Parkway near Honore Avenue, in 1994, detectives said, and rented out the spare bedroom to help pay her bills.
According to an affidavit, Mellquist began renting the room on March 14, 2003. But within a few days, she began to complain her new tenant was "drinking, leaving lights on, failing to lock the front door and being messy in general," the affidavit states.
Ten days later, she had sent Mellquist an eviction notice. A postal carrier said Mellquist appeared "irritated" when he received it, according to detectives.
Schweickardt began advertising the room for rent, and by April 3 she had a new tenant lined up to move in. She told the renter that she was "afraid" of Mellquist but expected him to move out by April 13. But just days after giving her new tenant a receipt for the first rent payment, she was gone — and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
Updated, 2:56 p.m. Feb. 4.