Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Documents reveal coldness of John Kalisz's murderous rampage in 2010

BROOKSVILLE — John Kalisz never said a word.

Wearing a hoodie and a baseball cap, he pointed a 9mm pistol at his sister, Kathryn "Kitty" Donovan. She begged him not to kill her, but he shot her three times.

Amy Wilson heard the screams. She peered through a sliding glass door and saw Kitty Donovan collapse. As Wilson turned to run, the glass door exploded. A round burned into her stomach and she crumpled to the ground.

Recently obtained investigative documents reveal for the first time, through his victims' eyes, how Kalisz coldly executed one of the most gruesome killing rampages in Hernando County history, then later shot to death a Dixie County deputy.

After shooting Wilson, Kalisz walked to the back porch and shot a third woman, Deborah Tillotson, four times. Next, he turned to his own niece, then-18-year-old Manessa, Kitty Donovan's daughter.

"He looked straight at me, and he shot me" said Manessa, who was two months pregnant. Bullets pierced her right hand, stomach and chest.

"I pretended I was dead," she said, "and he kept shooting at me."

Kalisz then returned to Wilson, who tried to run but couldn't.

"Please don't shoot me," Wilson yelled. "I don't even know you. What are you doing?"

Kitty Donovan and Deborah Tillotson died that day, Jan. 14, 2010. The other two women survived, though Manessa lost the fetus. Kalisz, whose capital murder trial begins tomorrow, later told investigators he thought he had killed everyone at his sister's home-based business — and that he wasn't sorry.

"I shot everybody until the bullets ran out," he said. "Until they shut up."

• • •

Months before the killings, Kalisz, a 57-year-old roofer, had exposed himself and masturbated in front of Manessa, then 17, in his sister's home. He was also accused of giving her nude photos and threatening the girl's boyfriend with a knife.

After accepting a deal, he was convicted in October 2009 of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He got six years of probation.

As the new year arrived, Kalisz's life began to unravel. The sexual accusations, he told friends, ruined him. He hated his sister for it.

Around Jan. 1, a white van matching the description of Kalisz's vehicle began appearing almost every day in Kitty Donovan's neighborhood.

A week before the women were killed, he asked his friend, Jessica Denny, how he could send an anonymous email. He wanted it to say: "I'm going to kill you."

His mobile home burned down days later when he tried to change propane tanks. His brother, Robert, told deputies he found $80 in single bills and offered them to Kalisz, who said he didn't need money anymore.

On Jan. 12, he told Denny over the phone that he had nothing to live for.

The next night, he went to Todd Linville's home, where the two talked for hours. Kalisz drank a quarter of a bottle of scotch. He said he had a pistol and seven clips of hollow-point rounds. Linville asked what he intended to do with it.

"Take 'em out," Kalisz said.

• • •

He left Linville's home the next morning around 9.

About 2 p.m. on Jan. 14, he drove his van to a lot in rural northern Hernando. Larry Lemon, who managed the property, had met him a few times. Kalisz asked if he could take some target practice. He'd come once before with an AK-47; this time, he brought a 9mm equipped with a laser scope. Kalisz stayed for about 45 minutes, firing at a tree stump. To Lemon, Kalisz appeared more calm than he'd ever seen him.

Minutes after he left, Kalisz stepped into his sister's home 12 miles away.

• • •

Kalisz called at least five people after he left the crime scene. He told two sisters in Connecticut that he had killed five people. In a voice mail, he thanked Robert for helping with the trailer.

He called Denny and told her of the shootings. He said he was driving to the Florida Keys but later said he was heading north. He told her he was waiting for the police to pull him over so he could shoot them, too. As an Eagles CD blared on his van's speakers, he asked Denny if she would give him a hug if they ever saw each other again.

He also phoned Linville and said what had happened.

"Where are you?" Linville asked him.

"Driving down the road. You don't need to know."

"How long ago was this?"

"Five minutes."

"How do you feel?"

"I don't really feel anything."

• • •

Kalisz fled north in his van to Cross City. When Dixie County deputies confronted him, he shot Capt. Chad Reed in the mouth. Kalisz was shot by deputies at least six times. Reed later died, and early last year, Kalisz was convicted of his murder. He received a life sentence.

Thirteen days after the murders, Kalisz lay in a Gainesville hospital bed and told investigators what happened, why it happened and how he felt.

He called his niece and her mother liars. He said he had intended to erase his sister's bloodline.

He called them pigs.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

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