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Long wait for justice nears end for families of serial killer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr.'s victims

For Kathleen Reeves, the pain has never gone away.

Not after she buried her 26-year-old daughter in 1986. Not after her killer was tried and convicted the first time, and then twice more. Not after he drew three death sentences.

And Reeves has no reason to think the pain will end Thursday, when she plans to watch Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. die.

"It will never be over," she said last week while visiting her daughter's grave in Spring Hill.

Her daughter, Teri Lynn Matthews, was the last of three women Bolin killed in the Tampa Bay area more than a quarter century ago. Of all his crimes, it appears that her murder will finally mean the end of the notorious serial killer.

Bolin's death will mark the end of a long wait for justice that Reeves has shared with the families of his other two victims, Natalie Blanche Holley, 25, and Stephanie Collins, 17.

Together, the families endured decades of Bolin's trials, appeals and retrials.

Seeing him die won't end the pain, Reeves said. But she needs to be there.

She will be there, for Teri.

"We had to put up with all that nonsense all these years … ," Reeves said. "We want the justice we've been promised."

• • •

Teri Lynn Matthews grew up in South Tampa. She was a graduate of Robinson High School. She played the flute for the school marching band.

She stayed in Tampa after graduating, then moved to her family's property south of Masaryktown, where they raised greyhounds. She had a miniature schnauzer named Heidi.

Before she died, she spent her days learning to become a certified scuba diver and her nights working as a bank clerk. She learned sign language so she could talk with some co-workers who were hearing impaired.

She dated Gary McClelland. They met at work. They talked of getting married.

"I think she was about every parent's idea of what they hoped their child would be," Reeves said. "She had lots of dreams and desires to fulfill. There was a lot of happiness in her life at the time she died."

On the night of Dec. 4, 1986, Matthews told her mother she was going out to eat with her boyfriend in Tampa and would be home late. Reeves stayed up until 2:30 a.m., gazing out a bay window, hoping to spot the headlights of her daughter's car.

But Matthews never came home. Reeves wondered if her daughter was mad at her. She went to bed. The next morning, her car still wasn't there. Reeves began to cry.

Later that morning, Matthews' boyfriend found her car abandoned outside the Land O'Lakes post office on U.S. 41. The engine was still running.

She had a mailbox there. So did Bolin.

"I think it was just a matter of timing," Reeves said. "Fifteen minutes either way and Bolin wouldn't have been there."

Later that day, a Pasco sheriff's cruiser pulled up to the house. A deputy asked Reeves if she could identify a pair of pink and turquoise earrings. They belonged to her daughter.

Her body was found wrapped in a sheet, off a rural road.

Her throat had been cut, her head bludgeoned.

She was the last of Bolin's victims that year.

• • •

Natalie Blanche Holley was the namesake of her mother. Mom went by Natalie; her daughter was Blanche.

Anita Holley remembered Blanche Holley, her baby half sister, as "intelligent" and "headstrong," with a mischievous streak. They shared the same father, Charles Holley, a Tampa politician who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1964.

Blanche Holley worked as the night manager at a Church's Chicken restaurant in Tampa. She talked about going back to school to study psychology.

She never returned home after finishing the late shift on Jan. 25, 1986. She was found later that day in an orange grove in Lutz. She had been stabbed 10 times.

Blanche Holley was Bolin's first victim in 1986.

"He replaced a lot of love and fondness for her with this whole vision of her being stabbed," Anita Holley said. "It makes you go a little insane."

She sat through two of Bolin's trials. She watched in disbelief when a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in 2005.

He had been previously convicted of first-degree murder in Blanche Holley's slaying. But the lesser charge carried a life sentence, sparing the killer another death sentence.

After a fourth trial, Anita Holley watched as Bolin was again found guilty of second-degree murder.

That was in 2012. Less than a month later, mother Natalie Holley died at the age of 86.

Anita Holley's anger has never faded. She hates the idea that Bolin, now 53, still breathes, even if it's behind prison walls.

"My life is a garden, and I fill it with wonderful people," she said, "and he is an insect in my garden.

"You don't clothe and feed an insect that's in my garden. You kill it."

Part of her ire also lies with the authorities who linked Bolin to the three 1986 murders — four years later.

The night her half sister disappeared, a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy stopped to check two cars parked off Lake Magdalene Boulevard in Tampa. One was registered to Bolin. He was inside with a woman, now believed to be Blanche Holley.

Bolin told the deputy he had car trouble and the woman was helping him. She said she was okay. The deputy left.

Blanche Holley's car was found abandoned at the same spot the next day. Detectives said they questioned Bolin's friends, but they gave him an alibi. He was no longer a suspect.

"They didn't follow up," Anita Holley said. "I think if they had, the other two women wouldn't have been killed."

• • •

Both Holley and Reeves spoke of the same feelings — suspecting everyone they knew before Bolin was finally caught, fantasizing about hurting him as they watched him in court.

And they share a special contempt for his wife, Rosalie Bolin, a former member of his defense team, who left her husband to marry the condemned man in 1996. They blame her for Bolin's many prolonged appeals — and their prolonged suffering.

"It made kind of a mockery of the whole thing," Reeves said. "You have to put it out of your mind sometimes."

So far, though, Bolin's defense hasn't been able to delay his execution. A last-ditch appeal is still working its way through federal court.

Stephanie Collins was Bolin's second victim. She disappeared on Nov. 5, 1986, and was found on Dec. 5, the same day as Matthews' murder. Collins had been stabbed and her skull crushed.

She was born in Kansas City and lived there until her family moved to Tampa three years before she died. She was a senior at Chamberlain High School. She sang in the school chorus and worked part-time at an Eckerd Drugs in Carrollwood. She went there the night she disappeared to ask if she could work more hours.

The Collins' family declined to sit down with a Tampa Bay Times reporter. Michael Collins, her brother, said talk of his sister brings too many tears.

Members of all three families plan to make the three-hour drive north to Starke this week. They will be led past a gate, through the bowels of Florida State Prison, to a small white room.

There, they will watch as a curtain rises. On the other side of the window they will see Bolin, strapped to a gurney, and watch as he is injected with a lethal cocktail of chemicals.

Reeves has talked about the execution with Stephanie Collins' mother, Donna Witmer.

"I told her this is for all of us," Reeves said. "It's not just me."

• • •

Reeves' husband, Hayward, died of cancer in 2014. Her twin sons — Glenn and Steven Matthews — are also gone. Glenn Matthews died of chronic health problems in 2007; Steven Matthews was killed in an auto accident in 2013.

"All three of my children died in December, so I don't do Christmas anymore," said Reeves, now 78. "It doesn't get easier. But I don't dwell on it."

She lives in Brooksville with her niece. She has a grandson in Kansas. She stays busy organizing properties she owns. She's trying to sell the farm where she lived when her daughter died.

After Bolin's death warrant was signed, she took a copy to her daughter's grave in the Florida Hills Memorial Gardens in Spring Hill.

Some of Matthews' Robinson High classmates had been there before her. They had left a spread of flowers with silver, white and black ribbons, the school colors.

The grave lies in the shade of two tall oaks with Spanish moss dangling from their branches. A placard notes that she was a beloved daughter. Above her name is an inscription:

Step Softly.

A Dream

Lies Buried

Here.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

Long wait for justice nears end for families of serial killer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr.'s victims 01/03/16 [Last modified: Sunday, January 3, 2016 10:38pm]
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