Thursday, April 26, 2018
Opinion

In Bolin case, victim cries for justice

At first blush this may seem like a terrible waste of time and money.

On trial for the fourth time in the 1986 murder of Natalie Blanche Holley, for Oscar Ray Bolin the verdict is essentially meaningless.

After all Bolin already sits on Florida's death row for two other 1986 murders. And if by some perverse quirk of fate, he managed to get out of those sentences, Bolin still has to serve a 15- to-75-year prison term for a 1987 Ohio rape conviction. This guy isn't going anywhere except in a box.

So? Why bother?

Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson and his followers in the Tate-LaBianca murders, may have said it best when in his closing arguments he reminded the jury that the victims from their graves, "… cry out for justice."

From her grave for the past 26 years now, Natalie Holley has been crying out for her justice, too.

I hate the word closure. It's a cruel canard.

For Holley's mother, also named Natalie, there will never be any closure in the loss of a daughter snatched away at 25 by a predatory killer. Oscar Ray Bolin could be executed 10 times over for her murder and serve 100 life sentences, and it wouldn't restore one more breath of life to Natalie Holley.

But her memory deserves better than to have to endure repeated trials, the repeated retelling of her grisly end.

Closure? Unlikely. Justice? It's never too late.

On Jan. 25, 1986, Natalie Holley left her night shift job at Church's Chicken on Fowler Avenue and was never seen alive again. Bolin was in the neighborhood.

Teri Lynn Matthews, 26 and Stephanie Collins, 17, never made it home either when Bolin was in the neighborhood, murders for which the now-50-year-old killer sits on death row.

For more than 25 years, Oscar Ray Bolin has haunted the Hillsborough County Courthouse in a bizarre saga straight out of Law & Order meets the Desperate Housewife of Brandon.

For in addition to the brutality of the crimes he has been accused of, Bolin's case also became one of the strangest love stories since Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett said "I do."

Enter Rosalie Martinez, the then-wife of a well-known Tampa lawyer Victor Martinez. Mother to four and wedded into one of the city's more prominent families, Rosalie walked away from her family to marry the killer in a jailhouse ceremony and thus became the widow-Bolin-in-waiting.

It's probably fair to say Oscar and Rosalie won't be growing old together.

And neither will Natalie Holley, Teri Lynn Matthews and Stephanie Collins, who now would be 51, 52 and 43 respectively — years forever lost, loves never realized, families never born.

These crimes happened so very long ago. In the halls of justice already overcrowded with today's latest murders, rapes, assaults and robberies, Natalie, Teri and Stephanie are merely part of the ever-growing mosaic of forgotten victims.

But not to their families and certainly not to matriarch Natalie Holley, who must live the remainder of her tragic life as a mother to a memory.

Bolin could do the right thing and simply admit his guilt, sparing the survivors of his victims rather than putting them through the emotional mugging of his trials.

But that would require a modicum of compassion, something three long-dead women know is in short supply in what passes for a soul in Oscar Ray Bolin.

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