Rosalie Bolin was our own home-grown tabloid headline, the woman who left her prominent lawyer-husband to wed a convicted rapist and killer she met while working for the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office.
"Unthinkable," Barbara Walters said back then. The story perseveres: Recently, Nancy Grace showed Rosalie on the Casey Anthony case and sputtered, "She's married to a serial killer?"
Those are the first questions people ask. Is she crazy? What about the women Oscar Ray Bolin murdered?
Sometimes there's one more: What about Rosalie's own daughters?
Family photos show four pretty, dark-haired girls, the oldest 14, the youngest 6 when their parents split and their dad got custody. Then their mom married the convicted killer, her in a lace wedding dress, him on speaker phone behind bars saying "I do" on national TV. And how do you grow up with that?
You can get an answer, or at least a glimpse, from someone who lived it.
Katherine Martinez is 21 now and a student at Florida State University. For school she has made a remarkable 10-minute video called It's Nice to Finally Meet You. It takes her to her mother for answers, and to prison to meet the man who changed everything.
Rosalie putters in her kitchen, hugs her daughter. A mitigation specialist who works to get life terms instead of death sentences, she gives a documentary interview.
What about us, her daughter asks. "Did you ever think what we had to deal with?"
"No, I didn't," Rosalie says. "I wasn't thinking that way, Katherine. I was not in a good mental place."
Katherine talks with her oldest sister Christina about how people acted around them, how people judged their mother and assumed she was crazy, how they thought it weird her daughters even still talk to her.
"Everyone was like, 'I can't believe you've forgiven her,' " Christina says, but forgiven isn't the word. "I think no matter what your mom does, I think it's an unconditional love."
Well done as the video is, it doesn't fully answer the big question — why — and maybe it can't. Rosalie says she "overreacted" and did it to show her husband he could not control her. She says she thought if she made a big deal and was Bolin's wife, people would listen when she said he didn't do it.
Her daughter asks: Do you think he's innocent? I do, her mother says.
Of everything? "Of everything," Rosalie says, everything being the 1986 murders of Stephanie Collins, Natalie Blanche Holley, and Teri Lynn Matthews.
Some people will be appalled Katherine went to prison to meet Bolin. Maybe she had to. I wanted to ask, but she didn't return my calls.
In an e-mail, Rosalie called her daughter courageous in making the documentary. "The press has not been kind to me and my girls have had to deal with it. This was Katherine's way of making some of the misconceptions right."
In the prison interview, I was less interested in what Bolin said than in Katherine's questions, her emotion, her sigh when it was over. It's not a story of him, even if it's because of him. It's about a mother's choices, and a daughter who grew up with them.
To see the video go to YouTube.com and type It's Nice To Finally Meet You in the search box.