Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

John Kalisz sentenced to death for the murder of two Hernando County women.

BROOKSVILLE — Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. looked down at a sheet of paper and adjusted his glasses. He exhaled. For the first time in his life, he prepared to condemn a man to death.

The 69-year-old Merritt spoke, as always, in a measured, Southern drawl. A salt-and-pepper mustache sits atop the stern conservative's deep frown lines. Other judges respect him, attorneys fear him and defendants dare not make him angry. Nonsense has no place in his courtroom.

John Kalisz, the murderer of two Hernando County women and a Dixie County deputy, stood before Merritt on Tuesday afternoon. His head shaved and eyes dull, Kalisz stared at the judge and chewed on his gums. He had apparently forgotten to wear his false teeth.

Merritt read the final words of the sentence: "death in a manner prescribed by law." The judge looked up. He glared at the defendant.

"May God have mercy," Merritt said, pausing. His eyes glassed, and his upper lip quivered. The judge clenched his jaw, then continued. "On your soul."

On Jan. 14, 2010, Kalisz killed his sister, Kathryn "Kitty" Donovan, and her office manager, Deborah Tillotson, in Donovan's home on Wilhelm Road, west of Brooksville. He also shot his niece, Manessa Donovan, and Amy Green, an employee at Kitty Donovan's home-based business. Last year, Kalisz received life in prison for killing Dixie sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed, who was shot trying to arrest him that day two years ago in Cross City.

No cheers erupted in the packed courtroom when Merritt read his decision. In January, a 12-person jury unanimously recommended that Kalisz be executed. Everyone knew what to expect Tuesday.

As Kalisz learned that he would die, the 57-year-old former roofer showed no emotion. He kept chewing.

Toward the back of the room, Tillotson's husband, Lee, nodded his head. Her daughter, Nicole DiConsiglio, wiped tears from her rosy cheeks.

Dixie Sheriff Dewey Hatcher leaned forward and gripped the shoulder of Reed's father, Broward, who sat on the front row with his wife, Faith. Broward Reed turned. The two men both smiled and shook hands.

A worn metal coin the size of a half-dollar sat at the bottom of Broward Reed's pocket. It's inscribed with his son's name, a Bible verse and a short quote: "No Greater Love." The emblem never leaves him.

The Reed and Tillotson families came together as law enforcement and the media shuffled out. DiConsiglio hugged Mrs. Reed, then wrapped her arms around Broward Reed. She closed her eyes and squeezed hard.

Later, Lee Tillotson stood in a quiet back room with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the floor. Kalisz's death sentence didn't bring him a grand sense of closure, and it won't change his life. His wife is still gone.

"There are no winners in this thing, only losers," he said. "Now, it's just time to heal."

No one from Kalisz's family attended.

Also not present was Capt. Reed's wife, Holly.

She had thought about coming, but her oldest son, 11-year-old C.J., had his first baseball game Tuesday. She kept score.

Also, both C.J. and his brother, Caden, 7, are entering animals in a livestock fair this weekend. One has a dairy cow; the other a rabbit. She spent the day at a farm helping C.J. and his classmates prepare their cows for competition. She tied her hair in a ponytail and tucked it under a baseball cap. She wore jeans, a T-shirt and rubber boots.

On a perfect Florida day, the kids bathed the cows and learned to saddle the animals. Holly was standing in a barn when she realized that on the day her husband's killer would be sentenced to death, she was with her son, laughing and being silly and walking cows. It made her smile. Her husband would have wanted that.

Holly supported the judge's decision, but she didn't regret not hearing it. Kalisz, she decided, wouldn't take away any more from her boys.

"I'm not going to miss anything more in their life," she said, "because of him."

Comments
Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Federal and state lawmakers are calling on Congress and the Florida House of Representatives to investigate whether two regional workforce centers inflated the number of people they helped find jobs. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D–St. Petersburg, and sta...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

Now that the fight against the largely defeated Islamic State is winding down, the U.S. Air Force is turning its efforts toward the Taliban and moving aircraft and crews to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.Crews and a KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refue...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Allowing felons a meaningful chance to reclaim their right to vote and rejoin civic life is edging closer to reality in Florida. On Tuesday the state announced that a yearslong petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot h...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Man, 60, arrested in fatal shooting of his neighbor in Holiday

HOLIDAY — A 60-year-old man fatally shot his neighbor on Tuesday while the younger man stood outside his own home, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said Qiu Feng Kek shot Edward Tudor, 37, outside 3519 Richboro Drive. He died a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Avalanche causes evacuations in Italy; indictment says Madsen abused journalist Wall before killing her; more in world news

Italy150 evacuated after avalancheFour helicopters evacuated 150 people trapped in a four-star hotel and other remote structures Tuesday after an avalanche, authorities said, as heavy snow caused disruption across the Alps. The Langtauferer Hotel, lo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ScarFace the Osprey scarfs up prized neckwear to make Coquina Key home

ST. PETERSBURGSome 25 feet up in the air, towering over Coquina Key, sits an osprey surveying the park below.It is on the hunt for any bit of material so it can prepare a nest for future hatchlings. Whether it be sticks, hay, palm leaves, a trash bag...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

Special counsel questions Sessions; Is Trump coming soon?

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for hours in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the Justice Department said Tuesday, as prosecutors moved closer to a possible interview with President Donald Trump about whether he ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Woman, 60, found guilty of filing false liens against Pinellas judge

Woman, 60, found guilty of filing false liens against Pinellas judge

LARGO — In his eight years as a circuit judge, Thomas Minkoff has handled family and civil cases, as well as 14,000 foreclosure hearings.He was in court once again on Tuesday, but not in his usual perch at the bench. This time, he was on the witness ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hernando County administrative offices to move outside Brooksville

Hernando County administrative offices to move outside Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — After more than 15 years of on and off debate, the County Commission has decided to turn the entire Hernando County Government Center over to the judicial arm of county government, providing the space judges and other judicial officials...
Updated: 2 hours ago