Closed-door Polk Street death opens grim mystery

Details about a deceased former cab driver discovered in a Polk Street residential hotel have proven to be a real-life locked-room mystery, according to the hotel’s owner.

The body of 68-year-old Robert Slivoski was discovered in the Broadway Hotel, at 2048 Polk St., on Thursday and was classified by the Medical Examiner’s Office as a homicide, cops said.

San Francisco police called to the scene said Slivoski was murdered.

But Abbulah Patel, who owns the hotel, is not so sure about that assertion.

“How they got to that conclusion, we don’t know,” Patel said. He said there have been no reports from neighbors about a struggle or loud noises that could be associated with foul play. Patel also said Slivoski’s door was locked from the inside.

“You need a key to unlock it from the inside,” he said. “Or someone inside to unlock it.”

There is a window that could have been used to exit the room, but it did not appear to be tampered with or broken, Patel said.

Police had to break down the door to gain entry, he said.

Slivoski lived at the hotel for more than 20 years and at some point drove a cab for a living, Patel said.

Michael Harris, the investigator of taxi services for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said Slivoski’s name was on the wait-list to receive a coveted taxi medallion. However, Harris said Slivoski did not show up on the agency’s active A-Card list, meaning he most likely wasn’t actively driving a taxi at the time of his death.

“He had been on the list for 20 years,” Harris said.

Patel said he does not know how Slivoski had been earning a living.

“No one knew,” Patek said. “I heard awhile back he was a cab driver.”

John Han, editor and publisher of the blog Taxi Town SF, talked to several drivers who said they remembered Slivoski working as a cabbie off and on over the years. They requested to not be identified.

Slivoski was a “very nice guy,” Patel said, adding that Slivoski was well-liked by other residents at the hotel.

Patel said he heard that some residents were in contact with Slivoski’s family. Slivoski’s nephew contacted an SF Examiner reporter Monday via email seeking more information on the mysterious death.

Slivoski was discovered Thursday after a neighbor contacted police because Slivoski hadn’t been seen for days. The neighbor claimed to have knocked and knocked on his door but received no answer, Patel said. The neighbor peered into the room through a window, Patel said, and saw Slivoski lying against a wall on the ground not moving.

The Medical Examiner’s Office arrived and announced Slivoski dead at 8:25 a.m., saying it appeared to be a homicide. Police arrived soon after and came to the same conclusion. Slivoski’s body had decomposed to the point where it was difficult to say when or how he died, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

rnagle@sfexaminer.com

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