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Part-time job put Hernando rampage victim in wrong place at wrong time

BROOKSVILLE — The part-time job offered Deborah Tillotson a chance to earn some extra money for retirement while nurturing her artsy-craftsy interests.

And she was able to leave work around lunchtime each day.

But Mrs. Tillotson started accepting more work and keeping longer hours at Kathryn Donovan's home-based color-therapy business. A part-time position became a full-time undertaking.

It wound up costing Mrs. Tillotson her life on Thursday.

"She was really supposed to be gone at 1 p.m.," said Lauren Tillotson, the younger of Mrs. Tillotson's two daughters. "If she had stayed with the original plan, she would have been gone."

Instead, Mrs. Tillotson's family and friends will be mourning her death today at a funeral service in St. Petersburg.

Authorities said that Mrs. Tillotson, 59, and her boss, Donovan, 61, were killed by Donovan's brother, John Kalisz, a 55-year-old roofer with a lengthy arrest record. Donovan's pregnant daughter, Manessa Donovan, 18, and employee Amy Wilson, 33, were seriously wounded in the shooting at Donovan's Wilshelm Road home business.

The shootings occurred just before 3 p.m.

The two wounded women were taken to Tampa General Hospital. Updates on their condition were not available Monday.

Kalisz later shot and killed Dixie County sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed, authorities said, before he was shot six times. He is being treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, and his status also was unavailable Monday.

Back in Hernando, Mrs. Tillotson's loved ones were despondent about the violent end of a woman who left her hometown of St. Petersburg in 2007 seeking a more peaceful life.

Born in Bath, N.Y., in 1950, the former Deborah Buckley moved to St. Petersburg with her family when she was 7. She was the oldest of four children — two boys and two girls.

For most of her adult life, she worked at an insurance company in St. Petersburg as an administrative assistant and later in tech support.

After raising two daughters in the city, Mrs. Tillotson and her husband, Lee, started looking for a quieter place to settle down. They found a 2.5-acre lot with a three-bedroom house tucked away in the woods of north Hernando, a place where Mrs. Tillotson could work on scrapbooks and Lee could tinker with classic cars.

They were going to watch deer and rabbits dart through their back yard. They were going to spend more time with their daughters.

"They wanted some place to get away from the city, some place more quaint," said Lauren Tillotson, who lives in Pinellas Park. "I absolutely loved it."

But when the economy took a turn for the worse, Mrs. Tillotson decided to look for a part-time job to bring in a little more money. About four months ago, she found a job at Donovan's business.

"It looked like something easy, like being a secretary," her daughter said. "She and (Donovan) met and clicked. They got along real well.

"And when (Donovan) needed more stuff done at work, my mother agreed to stay a little bit longer here and there."

Mrs. Tillotson's family members and friends are heading to St. Petersburg for today's funeral. Many of them left inspirational notes and memories on her online obituary posted on the Web site for Anderson-McQueen's Funeral Home.

"I can't think of you without seeing your bright blue eyes and big smile," said Frank and Laura Leta. "God will be there with you always."

Lauren Tillotson said a lot of them have hoped Kalisz would have died by now. Not her.

"He is going to jail and he's going to spend the rest of his life there," she said. "That, to me, is worse than death. He's going to suffer now and he's going to suffer later. He's getting what he deserves."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at or (352) 754-6120.

Part-time job put Hernando rampage victim in wrong place at wrong time 01/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 10:13pm]
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