TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There’s something about the blue house with the pink door on East 5th Avenue.
For Kurt Schleicher, the house’s real story began a few months ago, when he said law enforcement officials knocked on his door, asking to access his backyard.
“After about 30 minutes,” Schleicher recalled, “They gave up that, possibly, there were two women buried in the backyard.”
Armed with that information, Schleicher said he let them in. Over the subsequent weeks and months, he said investigators would return over and over again to the house.
“So first, they brought in five cadaver dogs, and each one has a specific scent that they go for,” Schleicher explained. “Then they came back with a group of CSI and detectives, and they started digging.”
It was during one of these return visits Schleicher said he saw a couple standing on the corner, watching his house. He said he’d seen them before.
“A family member who was in the street had stopped me and asked me questions about what was going on in the backyard,” Schleicher remembered. “The only people who would know that was the FDLE and the people who were family.”
Schleicher said the man he met introduced himself as a nephew of the aunt that was supposedly buried in the backyard, along with her best friend. That man, Schleicher said, told him the two met another man, who rented a room at 1707 E. 5th Ave. Later that night, the family told Schleicher the women went missing, presumed dead.
“The first area was here,” Schleicher said, motioning to a part of the backyard covered in dirt piles. “Which was a hot area that they found bullets and some bone debris.”
In a statement to WFLA, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it was assisting in an active investigation in Ybor City, but is not the main agency.
The Tampa Police Department said investigators received information that a body may have been buried on a residential property on the 1700 block of East 5th Avenue, and detectives with their Unsolved Major Crimes Unit partnered with the FDLE to look into it. As of Tuesday, TPD said it hasn’t found any human remains.
“What happened was that a deathbed confession was made by a woman,” said Joe Howden. “In which a man told her, ‘I killed two women there and buried them in the backyard.'”
Howden is an Ybor City historian, lives in the house next door and used to own 1707. He said the man who killed the women confessed to the crime to a female confidant in 1995. He later died that year, and Howden said the confidant told officials about the crime in 2007.
But this isn’t the first time the blue house with the pink door has seen death. That’s when Joe Howden believes the house’s real story began.
“In October 17, 1933, Victor came home and beheaded his family,” explained Howden.
The house is the site of the gruesome Licata family murder, where 20-something Victor Licata used an axe to kill his mother, father, two brothers and a sister.
“He came home, he went to sleep, he had a nightmare,” said Howden. “In the nightmare, his parents were trying to cut his arms off, and he was schizophrenic, so he was hallucinating.”
That tragedy became the lead story for Harry Anslinger, former Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Howden said Anslinger went before Congress with 203 examples of violent crimes committed by people using marijuana. But, Howden explained, 201 of those were not true, including the Licatas.
“Fortunately, the Chief of Police of TPD at that time had Victor tested for marijuana,” Howden said. “He did not smoke marijuana that night.”
But the house and that murder still became the centerpiece of Anslinger’s onslaught of the war on drugs, beginning back in the 1930s, including the now cult classic film, Reefer Madness, which Howden said Anslinger financially supported.
Despite its tumultuous history, both Howden and Schleicher agree — there’s something about the house.