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Hernando murder suspect John Kalisz leaves Alachua hospital

BROOKSVILLE — Triple homicide suspect John Kalisz appeared before a judge for the first time Thursday while lying in an ambulance parked at a Brooksville fire station.

Kalisz, who is recovering from gunshot wounds he received during a shootout with authorities in Dixie County this month, was taken Thursday morning from Shands Hospital in Gainesville to Hernando County. He was served with warrants for two counts of first-degree murder with a firearm, said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman for the Hernando Sheriff's Office.

Authorities say that on Jan. 14, Kalisz shot and killed his sister and another woman and seriously wounded two other people in Brooksville, then shot and killed a Dixie County sheriff's captain.

About midday Thursday, the ambulance carrying Kalisz pulled up to Brooksville Station 61. Circuit Judge Donald Scaglione and Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino stood just outside the door while Public Defender Alan Fanter sat inside the ambulance next to his client, Magrino said.

Officials said the unusual venue was the best option considering Kalisz's medical condition.

"Except for where it was done, it was just like a normal first appearance," Magrino said.

Presiding over a first appearance from the back of an ambulance was a first for Scaglione.

"If this facilitated the defendant's due process and gets him to a facility that could provide the medical attention he needs, then it served its purpose," Scaglione said.

The ambulance then headed south and, trailed by deputies' cruisers, passed through the barbed wire gates of the Hillsborough County jail on Falkenburg Road in Tampa just after 1 p.m. A video from the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office shows deputies flanking Kalisz's gurney as he is wheeled into the building.

Officials decided that the Hillsborough facility's infirmary could better tend to Kalisz's needs, Black said. He will be moved to the Hernando jail when doctors say he is well enough, she said.

Kalisz was also served Thursday with eight counts of violating probation. In October, he pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He received six years of sex offender probation.

Grand juries in both Hernando and Dixie counties are expected to convene in the coming weeks to formally charge Kalisz. Additional charges are likely.

Authorities say Kalisz drove to his sister's house in Brooksville on Jan. 14, walked in the front door armed with a 9mm handgun and started shooting. He fired about 15 rounds, officials say, killing sister Kathryn Donovan, 61, and her 59-year-old office manager, Deborah Tillotson.

Donovan's daughter, Manessa, 18, and another employee in the home-based fabrics business, Amy Wilson, 33, each suffered multiple gunshot wounds and survived.

Kalisz fled north on U.S. 19, pulled into a gas station in Cross City and exchanged gunfire with authorities. Dixie sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed was shot and died that evening. Kalisz was shot at least six times and taken to Shands.

The grand jury in Hernando, when contemplating charges, will have to consider another fact in the case: Manessa Donovan was two month's pregnant and lost the fetus during surgery.

Wilson was released from the hospital earlier this month. Donovan was still recovering in a hospital earlier this week, family members said.

Reach Tony Marrero at or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando murder suspect John Kalisz leaves Alachua hospital 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 11:58pm]
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