Mother of Florida serial killer's victim braces for his execution

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2016 3:12 PM

By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - When Kathleen Reeves reserved a hotel room near the Florida prison where she expects to witness the execution of her daughter's killer on Thursday, she had one question: What's the cancellation policy?

Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. has spent nearly 20 years on death row. But his convictions and death sentences for killing Reeves' daughter and two other women have been repeatedly overturned, and the weary mother wanted to leave nothing to chance.

"With all the turns and twists and trials over the years, I'm not counting on anything until it happens," Reeves, 78, said in a phone interview from her home near daughter Teri Lynn Matthews' grave in Spring Hill, Florida.

Bolin, a 53-year-old former carnival worker, will be the first inmate put to death in Florida this year unless appeals courts intervene. The state executed two inmates in 2015, compared with 13 people in Texas.

Bolin's case garnered international attention in 1996 when he married a member of his defense team on national television from Death Row. Rosalie Martinez had divorced her husband, a prominent Tampa attorney, after falling in love with Bolin, and has since played an important role in his many successful appeals - to the ire of the victims' families.

Rosalie Martinez Bolin, who now investigates death penalty cases across Florida, referred questions about the upcoming execution to her husband's lawyers.

"Knowing that someone she loves and is married to, and who she truly believes sincerely is innocent, is about to potentially get executed - it's a very, very difficult time for her," said attorney Bjorn Brunvand.

Oscar Bolin was in prison in Ohio on kidnapping and rape charges when he was charged in 1990 with killing 26-year-old Matthews, whose body was found wrapped in a sheet on a rural road in central Florida in December 1986. She had been raped, beaten and stabbed.

In 2004, after three trials, the Florida Supreme Court upheld Bolin's conviction and death sentence for murdering Matthews. Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant in October, allowing an execution date for Bolin to be set for the first time.

Bolin's murder cases in the deaths of two other young women in 1986 in a neighboring county - Natalie Blanche Holley, 25, and Stephanie Collins, 17 - also resulted in extended legal proceedings.

He was sentenced to death three times for Collins' slaying, the last in 2007. And after four trials, Bolin began serving life in prison in 2012 for Holley's murder.

His lethal injection for Matthews' murder is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Florida State Prison. After the death warrant was signed, Reeves took a copy nestled in flowers to her daughter's gravesite.

Reeves said she has no room in her heart for forgiveness.

"It's just a circus, and we're waiting for the finale," she said. "I won't feel guilty or sad that he's gone."

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Dallas, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Andrew Hay)