On 22 February last year a package was sent from Emas Erasmus Avenue in Pretoria to a home in Ohio in the US.
Inside the package was an animal tranquilliser sourced from a South African vet.
The tranquilliser, known as M99, which is strictly regulated and which poachers use on animals like rhinos, was allegedly administered to Timothy Hovanec, who subsequently died.
This is the crux of allegations in a case in which Anthony Theodorou of South Africa, as well as Amanda Hovanec and her mother Anita Green of the US, are set to go on trial for later this year.
Denied trial separation
Theodorou and Hovanec face charges in the US, including for the importation of a controlled substance and conspiracy with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Green is charged with being an accessory after the fact.
They have pleaded not guilty.
According to US court records that Daily Maverick has seen, Theodorou recently tried to have his case separated from his two co-accused, but in January it was ruled that this would not happen.
Ohio media subsequently reported that the case was set to head to trial in October this year.
Based on allegations that have already surfaced, US authorities managed to piece together what possibly happened to Timothy Hovanec, using surveillance camera footage, cellphone data and footage from a camera on the dashboard of his car.
It appeared that he was targeted due to a custody battle.
Victim Timothy Hovanec. (Photo: Supplied)
Sensitive government equipment
A May 2022 statement by Andrew Eilerman, a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, detailed what allegedly happened.
Eilerman’s statement does not name Timothy Hovanec but references an individual, TH, that appears to be him.
For ease of reference from this point, Timothy Hovanec will be identified here as TH.
Eilerman’s statement said that on 22 April last year, a call was received “about belongings left unattended in a room at the Best Western Hotel” in Ohio.
TH had been using the room.
Eilerman said TH “was employed by the United States Department of State as a Security Engineering Officer, and there was concern that some of the electronic equipment located at the hotel room may contain sensitive US government [information].”
Security footage from the hotel was reviewed.
Moved to South Africa
Meanwhile, Eilerman said several individuals, including TH’s mother, were interviewed.
According to his mother, TH had married Hovanec back in 2012 and together they had three children.
Four years later, in 2016, they moved to Germany for his work and roughly two years later they moved to South Africa.
Eilerman’s statement continued: “At some point in 2020, Amanda initiated divorce proceedings against TH. According to the mother, during their time in South Africa, Amanda developed a relationship with a South African citizen named Anthony Theodorou.”
From November 2021 Hovanec had allegedly denied TH “court-ordered visitation with his children”.
TH, according to his mother, went back to Ohio to attend a child custody hearing with Hovanec (who by that point had returned there) on 22 April last year.
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Visitation and video footage
A judge ordered that TH be allowed to visit his children over 48 hours from that day and also that TH could take them into his custody at a later stage – 28 May to 5 August 2022.
On 24 April, two days after the child custody hearing, TH was spotted on a hotel surveillance camera.
“TH was last seen on the video surveillance system at 4:27 pm where he was seen departing the hotel with his three children,” Eilerman’s statement said.
The next day, 25 April 2022, hotel staff checked his room as he was scheduled to leave, but his belongings were still there.
Under the impression he was staying for longer, they charged him another night.
But by 26 April TH had still not returned so hotel staff cleared his room and contacted police.
‘What the heck are you doing?’
Focus was then shifted to a black Volkswagen Tiguan, which officers located using data extracted from TH’s cellphone. The car’s Vehicle
Identification Number matched that of TH’s and a dashboard camera was found in it.
“This dash camera captured TH dropping off his children at Amanda’s residence on April 24, 2022, and his ultimate murder,” Eilerman’s statement alleged.
The footage, he said, showed that when TH arrived at Hovanec’s home, she was waiting there with her mother, Anita Green.
Hovanec walked to the car and could be heard telling the three children: “I have a surprise for you inside.”
Eilerman’s statement alleged: “Seconds later, TH said, ‘What the heck are you doing? Did you just assault me?’ TH followed that by saying, ‘Get away from me… Get off of me.’
“TH and Amanda enter the screen of the video from the passenger side of the vehicle. Amanda is pulling on his hand and shirt as TH tries to use his cellphone. Amanda then aggressively wrestles for his phone, eventually knocking it out of his hand onto the ground. Amanda then pulls on TH’s back and neck and gets him to the ground. She held him around the neck (not choking him) until his body went limp.”
‘Unconscious and unresponsive’
Eilerman alleged Hovanec switched the car off – this led to the video stopping “as TH laid unconscious and unresponsive on the driveway”.
According to Eilerman, Hovanec later allegedly confessed to effectively poisoning TH.
“Amanda admitted she injected TH in the shoulder [with a poison or drug] while they were standing next to his vehicle after he dropped off the children…
“[She] said she received the drug in the mail approximately one month before she killed TH and that Anthony Theodorou shipped the drug from South Africa to Amanda”.
Eilerman also alleged that together with Theodorou, Hovanec allegedly got TH’s body into her car.
“Shortly thereafter, Green drove Amanda and Theodorou to where they buried the body… a wooded area located… in the Northern District of Ohio.”
Eilerman alleged that Theodorou’s version of events was that Hovanec had talked about killing TH for about a year.
“Due to the custody issues… she felt that this was the only way to prevent the children from spending the summer with TH,” Eilerman’s statement said.
“Theodorou said that he obtained the substance used to kill TH. He referred to the substance as M99. According to Theodorou, he had an acquaintance who acquired the substance from a veterinarian in South Africa.”
He had allegedly been “reluctant” to divulge the name of the person who supplied the drug.
Theodorou allegedly claimed he had not been directly involved with TH’s murder. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.