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Arguments begin in murder trial

The state of Florida has a case for first-degree murder against convicted killer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr.

And Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis wants the jury to know it.

"I'm going to tell you what this case is all about," he told the 13 newly selected jurors in his opening arguments Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to the 1986 killing of Land O' Lakes resident Teri Lynn Matthews, Halkitis told the 10 women and three men (one woman is an alternate) of the murders of two other women that year: Natalie Blanche Holley and Stephanie Collins.

Bolin was convicted of those murders in Hillsborough County last year.

Halkitis attempted to draw specific connections between the three killings: matching fibers found on all three bodies; separate, but similar, woods in south Pasco and north Hillsborough where the bodies were discovered; hospital-issue sheets wrapped around the corpses.

He also seemed to highlight the testimony of Cheryl Jo Haffner, Bolin's ex-wife. He said she would say that on the night the killing allegedly occurred, she saw her husband in bed with blood on his shoes and a purse that wasn't hers in his hands.

Haffner, who lives in Indiana and cannot travel due to illness, will not be able to testify in person at the trial. A sworn statement from her deposition will be read.

The state's first few witnesses served to lay the groundwork for the case. In 1986, Don Gibson of Spring Hill lived in the Gowers Corner area where Matthews' body was discovered.

He said he and a friend were driving to the store when they saw large birds flying around in the woods near the road.

"We thought it was turkeys at first," he said. The birds turned out to be buzzards. He found Matthews' body nearby and called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Gibson knew Phillip Bolin, Oscar's stepbrother, who was 13 years old at the time. Phillip and his parents lived across the street _ about half a mile from where the body was found.

Halkitis said Phillip would testify that Bolin came to his house that night and asked him to help carry a body into the nearby woods.

Two detectives from the Pasco Sheriff's Office identified photographs, tire track prints and other items from the crime scene. Those, and a videotape made of the scene when the body was found, were entered into evidence.

Public Defenders Douglas Loeffler and David Siar, Bolin's attorneys, made no opening statements and asked no questions of the first three witnesses.

The case is set to continue at 9:30 a.m. today.

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