LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) — You’d never think a routine day at the office could end with a bizarre, shocking, and gruesome crime.
Right now, the body of attorney Steven Cozzi still has not been found and a local surgeon is sitting behind bars, charged with first degree murder.
Now for the first time, Cozzi’s husband, Michael Montgomery tells his emotional story to 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi. This is a story about love and evil, caring and suffering, life and death.
As the world shut down in 2020, Michael Montgomery and Steven Cozzi said “I do” in a small ceremony in Homosassa.
“I take you Michael to be my husband,” said Steven. “I will share my life with you.”
Less than three short years later, Michael and Steven’s shared life together came to an abrupt, shocking end.
“What do you want the world to know about Steven Cozzi?” asked Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.
“That he was just so much more than what happened to him,” said Michael.
On March 21, 2023, at 8:37 a.m., Steven arrived to work at the Blanchard Law Office in Largo.
According to Largo P.D., approximately 73 minutes later, Steven went to the bathroom, then simply vanished. His keys, wallet, phone, laptop and tablet were still in the office.
Frantic co-workers reached out to Michael.
“I knew right away when they messaged me that something was wrong,” he said.
Forensics processed the scene. Detectives discovered traces of blood behind the restroom door. But, no signs of Steven.
“You’re paralyzed when this is all going on,” said Michael. “Just panic, just straight panic.”
Five days later, panic turned to pain. Detectives told Michael, someone murdered Steven.
But who and why?
According to court documents obtained by 8 On Your Side, surveillance cameras recorded video of a man leaving the building. He was seen pushing a cart, then loading what police believe is Steven’s body into a truck.
Last month, Kosowski made his first appearance in court from the Pinellas County Jail.
“Do you understand the charges?” asked the court. “Yes, I do.”
Police said they found the doctor’s fingerprint at the scene. Bjorn Brunvand is his defense attorney.
“Just keep an open mind and keep in mind the fact that he’s a doctor and he’s presumed innocent despite the nature of the charges,” Brunvand told reporters.
According to detectives, prior to the murder, there had been another confrontation in the restroom at Steven’s office.
Steven and the doctor were embroiled in a contentious lawsuit about medical billing.
According to a search warrant obtained by 8 On Your Side, after a deposition at Steven’s office on January 26, the doctor confronted Steven.
Jake Pillsbury was Steven’s co-counsel on the case involving the doctor.
“When he approached him in the bathroom, I wish we would’ve brought that to the court’s attention faster,” said Pillsbury.
“He deserved so much better, he just deserved so much better. Like, it haunts me thinking about what happened to him,” he said. “Just in an instant, all these things that we had going on just ended. You feel like your purpose in life ends.”
“He was brilliant. He was hilarious. He was kind,” said Michael. “Like if he had a disagreement with you, he could listen to understand.”
At the couple’s home, Steven’s many books line the shelves.
“Does this bring you comfort to be here?” asked Saeidi.
“It does. This is my temple right now,” said Michael.
On nearly every wall in the home, there are pictures of their best day ever.
“He always used to say that to people when they came over, it’s like if you look at all of our pictures, you would think that the only thing we ever did was get married,” said Michael.
So many beautiful memories. Now so much changed, evening walks with the dogs are now hauntingly silent strolls.
Thoughts of what may have gone unsaid flood Michael’s head.
“I just wanted him to know how much I loved him you know,” said Michael. “Did he know how much I loved him? I think he did.”
And how Michael wishes he had one more chance to talk with Steven.
“Every day when he left work, he called me, everyday, and most of the time I wouldn’t answer because I was either still working,” said Michael. “But like, I wish I would’ve answered those phone calls more.”
Steven believed in being a human first, and a lawyer second. His death rocked the legal community in Tampa Bay.
Steve loved theater and prior to becoming an attorney, he worked on Broadway in New York City.