FORT MYERS, Fla. – The lack of resources versus financial motivation was the focus of a bond hearing for Mark Sievers on Thursday, where for the first time, investigators detailed information from a key witness that led to his arrest.
Despite claims of “limited to no financial resources,” Lee County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Kyle denied a $4.43 million to $250,000 bond reduction for Sievers.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office Det. Sgt. Michael Downs, the lead investigator on the Sievers murder case, testified that the insurance policies Sievers and his wife, Dr. Teresa Sievers, had together were a “relevant factor” for the killing.
“It was the motivation for Curtis Wayne Wright,” Downs said.
Wright, Sievers’ childhood friend, told investigators under oath that the pair discussed receiving payment from the policies “specifically for the murder of Mr. Sievers’ wife,” Downs said.
Investigators initially theorized that the killing was related to the insurance policies.
Downs’ statement was the first time investigators disclosed what Wright told them. Charged with second-degree murder, Wright accepted a 25-year prison sentence in exchange for his statement and testifying against Sievers and Jimmy Ray Rodgers, who is also charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Mark Sievers was arrested about a week after Wright talked with detectives.
Thursday’s hearing also focused on Mark Sievers’ ability to receive any payout from the insurance policies, the amount of which was the basis for his bond.
His attorney, Michael Mummert, argued that state law prevents him from receiving any life insurance payments unless he is acquitted, adding that the insurance companies wouldn’t make any payouts until the conclusion of the case.
“This idea that the life insurance policies are burning a hole in the insurance companies’ pockets, it’s absurd,” he said. “They are large corporations that operate in 50 states. They have no desire to part with the money before they absolutely have to.”
Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter argued Mummert’s interpretation of the law, stating there is nothing preventing an insurance company from paying out to someone accused of murder.
During his testimony, Downs said Sievers had previously filed claims on the policies.
“There’s not consequence at all for an insurance company if they choose to pay the claim,” Hunter said. “The issue is the other beneficiaries on the life insurance policies are individual people Sievers has control over, is trying to get control over or will get control over.”
Mummert further attempted to substantiate a bond reduction by having Sievers answer questions about his finances (he’s unemployed, can’t sell his home or take out an additional mortgage and is underwater on his condo in Missouri), connection to the area (has lived in Lee County for about 10 years, along with his mother and daughters being in the area), not having any criminal history and remaining in the area since his wife’s killing.
If granted the bond reduction, Sievers said his mother and brother would “pool their resources and see what they can come up with.”
“My client has been declared indigent,” Mummert said. “He has no assets of value.”
Hunter argued that Sievers has “substantial contacts” in Missouri, adding that the same points brought up in Thursday’s hearing were also considered during his first appearance, where the bond was set.
“The defense has to overcome the presumptive correctness of the court’s ruling,” he said.
Mark Sievers is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, who was found bludgeoned to death inside the kitchen of the couple’s Jarvis Road home in June 2015. Investigators believe Mark Sievers, who pleaded not guilty, planned the killing and promised his childhood friend payment for carrying out the plan.
Thursday’s judgment was another legal setback for Mark Sievers since his arrest in February. Along with Wright’s plea agreement, Sievers’ two daughters, ages 9 and 11, were placed in the custody of his mother-in-law on April 8 against his wishes. His mother, Bonnie, will argue for custody on May 11.