Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawyers give opening statements in Oscar Ray Bolin trial

TAMPA — Oscar Ray Bolin's ex-wife died years ago from diabetes complications, but she remains a key prosecution witness as Bolin stands trial a fourth time for the 1986 murder of 25-year-old Natalie Blanche Holley.

In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors said jurors would hear a two-decade-old recording in which Bolin's ex-wife Cheryl described Bolin in blood-stained sneakers searching through a woman's purse he'd brought home at 2 in the morning.

Her testimony was used to convict Bolin in three previous trials that were later overturned on appeals. She hadn't come forward until four years after the killing, when she had remarried and told the story to her new husband in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Now jurors will hear it again this week. Assistant State Attorney Chris Jensen promised to transport them back to Jan. 25, 1986, when Holley never made it home from her night shift at Church's Chicken on Fowler Avenue.

The jury will not be told that Bolin has been sentenced to death twice for Holley's murder. In trial No. 3, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life. In this fourth trial, he is once again charged with second-degree murder.

Jurors also don't know that Bolin resides on Florida's death row for two other 1986 murders — those of Teri Lynn Matthews, 26, and Stephanie Collins, 17.

This week, they will hear Cheryl Jo Coby describe how her husband changed out of a bloody pair of Traxx sneakers the night of Holley's death and took cash from the purse he'd brought home. She testified that she went with him to a car parked at Smitter Road and Lake Magdalene Boulevard, where he wiped down the car, and dumped the purse.

The jury will also hear from the defense that Coby was legally blind from diabetes in 1986.

Other voices from the past are live ones, though many of the Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives and patrol officers who investigated the case have since retired. As they wait to testify, the graying cops have claimed a corner of the hall for a reunion of sorts, swapping old stories of nabbing bad guys.

One of them, former patrol officer Ron Valenti, now a patrol lieutenant, Tuesday described an odd encounter he had the night of the killing with Bolin and, possibly, Holley.

He said he found two cars parked on Smitter Road, one with emergency flashers on, at 2 a.m. That car was empty. It was registered to Oscar Ray and Cheryl Bolin.

In the other car, he found a man he said was Bolin and a young woman. He said Bolin claimed he'd run out of gas and she was helping him. Valenti said he asked the woman if she was okay. She said she was, so he left.

The prosecution said it will call on Bolin's cousin Frank, who waited until 2005 to tell investigators that Bolin confessed the crime to him. In the last trial, Frank Bolin said his cousin told him, "I did that girl," as they drove by Church's Chicken after the killing.

Frank Bolin said he thought his cousin was joking. He apologized to Holley's mother for not speaking out sooner.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand said he will focus on inconsistencies in testimony from past trials that add up to "snapshots of innocence" for Bolin. "No one deserves to die as Natalie Holley did," he said, "but the evidence does not establish that Oscar Ray Bolin committed the gruesome crime."

Jurors also will be told about a DNA match between Bolin and a strand of hair found clutched in Holley's hand. And they will be shown a 1991 suicide note that Bolin wrote in Hillsborough County Jail, in which he advised detectives to talk to his ex-wife about Holley's murder.

He wrote that she knew everything.

John Barry can be reached at or (813) 226-3383.

Lawyers give opening statements in Oscar Ray Bolin trial 04/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 9:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Trump shoves fellow NATO leader aside on his first summit


    President Donald Trump muscled himself to the front of the NATO pack during a photo opportunity in Brussels on Thursday, pushing aside the leader of soon-to-be member Montenegro.

    In this image taken from NATO TV, Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, second right, appears to be pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump as they were given a tour of NATO's new headquarters after taking part in a group photo, during a NATO summit of heads of state and government in Brussels on Thursday. [NATO TV via AP]
  2. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  3. See inside this Snell Isle home with an amazing chandelier and infinity pool

    Home and Garden

    When Elizabeth and David Samuelson started planning the house they built six years ago on Snell Isle, the couple envisioned a West Indies look with masonry stucco walls and a metal hip roof. As they moved forward, it evolved into something they describe as coastal contemporary.

    Elizabeth Samuelson and David Samuelson's at the entrance to their Snell Isle house which has numerous luxurious features yet is a comfortable home for a family of four. An infinity pool blends seamlessly from the terrace right into Tampa Bay. Doors surrounding the family room open and are then out of sight enabling the interior to seem more outside than inside. David designed and made a chandelier with hundreds of dangling, clear fish that hangs over the foyer.
  4. Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban


    WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court dealt another blow to President Donald Trump's revised travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries on Thursday, siding with groups that say the policy illegally targets Muslims.

    Donald Trump will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. [Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via AP]
  5. Bucs suspended RB Doug Martin breaks his silence and says his drug problem is 'definitely behind me.'


    He would not talk about the drug he abused. He didn’t identify the rehab facility he entered last January or how long he was there.

    Doug Martin was contrite but optimistic about returning to the form he demonstrated as the NFL's second leading rusher two years ago.