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Murdered woman was forgotten victim

 
Published Aug. 3, 1990|Updated Oct. 17, 2005

When Natalie Blanche Holley was a toddler in 1964, her daddy was a step away from the Governor's Mansion. But she never made it to the state Capitol, and when she grew up, she never had a chance to marry or have children. On Jan. 25, 1986, a few hours after locking up the Church's Fried Chicken restaurant she managed in Tampa, the young woman, whom family and friends called Blanche, was stabbed to death and dumped in the backwoods of Lutz in northern Hillsborough County.

The 25-year-old victim was almost forgotten. While detectives were still searching for clues to her murder, the media _ and all of America _ were distracted by another event Jan. 28. "It was the Challenger explosion," explained Blanche's mother, Natalie. "That made everybody forget."

Mrs. Holley cannot forget. Now 65 and recently retired from her job as an operations analyst for the Social Security Administration, she thinks of her daughter every time she glances at the jewelry box decorated with flowers or the photos taken when the two took a five-week jaunt to Europe shortly before Blanche was murdered.

"I'm thankful for that time because it brought us so much closer together," Mrs. Holley said. "But there are still a lot of things I wish I'd been able to say to her."

Blanche's parents divorced before she finished school. Her father, Charles R. Holley, was a lawyer, circuit judge and state legislator from Pinellas County and was the GOP candidate for governor against Haydon Burns. He died in Naples in 1981.

Blanche was "a reader, on the quiet side" and a girl "who always liked to be around children," her mother said. She attended Keswick Christian School in St. Petersburg and King High and Plant High in Tampa.

Mrs. Holley said she feels some relief now that detectives have arrested the man they believe killed her daughter. But she still feels tormented by the question, "Why?"

"The money wasn't missing," she said. "My daughter was fully clothed when found, and her jewelry wasn't taken. I can't understand what the motive might have been."

Teri Lynn Matthews

Teri Lynn Matthews called her mother about midnight from her job at the NCNB National Bank regional center in Tampa. She was leaving work but planned to stop by her boyfriend's house before heading home to Pasco County.

Her mother, Kay Reeves, was concerned about her daughter's 35-mile drive to work, but knew her daughter, 26, was cautious.

That was the last time Mrs. Reeves spoke to her daughter, who apparently stopped at the Land O'Lakes post office about 2:40 a.m. but never made it home. That same day, Dec. 5, 1986, a motorist found her body near Coonhide Road and Greenfield Road in north-central Pasco. She had been stabbed and beaten to death.

Stephanie Anne Collins

Stephanie Anne Collins, 17, stopped by the Eckerd drugstore on N Dale Mabry Highway on Nov. 5, 1986. She wanted to talk her manager into letting her work more hours at her part-time job to earn money for Christmas presents. But she couldn't accept the manager's offer to work that night. She was on her way to rehearsal for a concert at Chamberlain High School.

She never made it. Her mother, Donna Witmer, found her daughter's 1977 Plymouth Volare the next morning, parked outside the Eckerd in the Market Place North shopping center. The keys were on the floor of the car.

Family and friends blanketed the area with fliers. Classmates held a candlelight vigil, and a $10,000 reward was offered. But no break in the case came until Dec. 5, 1986, when a county road crew discovered a clothed body, partly covered by a sheet, lying in a ditch off Morris Bridge Road. The body was identified as that of Miss Collins. She had been stabbed and beaten to death, authorities said.

Lisa Eisman and Kim Vaccaro

College students Lisa Eisman and Kim Vaccaro left New York for a Fort Lauderdale spring break vacation March 29, 1985. They mailed one postcard from the trip. Four days later, their bodies were found floating in the Hillsborough River.

The women, both 20 and roommates at Buffalo (N.Y.) State College, were last seen alive hitchhiking along Interstate 95.

The women's bodies were found 300 to 400 yards west of the Interstate 275 bypass bridge. Their faces were severely beaten and each wore only a T-shirt. Police said it appeared the women were killed by blows to the head.

Meredith Fish

Meredith Fish was 16 when she was stabbed to death in August 1985. She died of 13 knife wounds to the throat. Her body was found at the Floriland Mall in Tampa.

For a while, family members suspected her murder might be related to the death of Billy Rosebud, also 16, who was killed four months earlier.

But that theory led nowhere.

Connie Fish, Meredith's father, said he has little details on the Bolin lead. "I pray this is it," he said.

Officials are also investigating links between Bolin and the 1984 death of Connie Louise Jones and the 1985 death of Sharon Joan Hopper. Bodies of both women were found in Hillsborough County.

_ Staff writers Sally Hicks, Heddy Murphey and Marlene Sokol contributed to this report, in which information from Times files was used.