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In her love for a killer she finds herself

Published Sep. 16, 2005

The voice on the phone was pleasant and almost musical, professional sounding; a woman's voice. A grown-up voice.

The voice belonged to Rosalie Martinez, the self-proclaimed angel who wants us to watch as she proves that her betrothed _ convicted killer (and suspected killer of at least two other women, and maybe more) Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. _ is innocent, a victim in his own right.

She called Monday from Gainesville, where she has lived since her husband divorced her and took custody of their four children. She called because I had written Sunday about Bolin's other victims _ the mothers of the three young women Bolin was originally convicted of killing. Retrials have been ordered, and the three mothers attended the Pasco County trial at which Bolin was convicted a second time in one of the murders, of Teri Lynn Matthews.

The three women watched Rosalie Martinez cozy up to Bolin in the courtroom and called her pathetic. They wondered what Martinez's children are going through.

Her daughters attend the Academy of the Holy Names, a Catholic school for girls on the Bayshore. Kids there aren't different from any other kids. They can be cruel. And some of them are being very cruel to Rosalie Martinez's older girls, who are in seventh and ninth grades. Their friends want to know how their mother can marry a killer. At the mention of this, tears crept into Rosalie Martinez's well-modulated voice on the phone. Then the tears were gone.

"I don't want to see my children hurt," she said. "But I intend to be happy, and whatever that happiness is, I deserve it."

No matter how angry her children are at her _ and they are very angry, she said _ she is unmoved. "I'm not going to let a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old manipulate me out of guilt."

When I asked Martinez if she was surprised at what her girls are suffering, she said no. "It never occurred to me."

When I said that sounded like the remark of a most self-absorbed person, she acknowledged, yes, maybe it was. If she became self-absorbed, she said, it was because her own needs weren't met.

"My entire life, I've tried to please other people," she said.

Her parents were Sicilian immigrant parents; her father a mechanic, her mother a tailor. They wanted her to marry well. She did that. A doctor's son. A Latin doctor's son. Rosalie had seven bridal showers. He became a lawyer. She was good and true, a warm light in the shadow he cast. But then the love between her and her husband died. (She cried as she told me that. "It's like a Greek tragedy.") She got a patronage job in the public defender's office from her childhood friend, Julianne Holt. Without a shred of training as a social worker, she began ministering to the poor.

They were underdogs. Misunderstood. Behind bars. She lived in a cage too, of expectations, and nobody noticed. Then along came Oscar Ray Bolin. The good girl smashed the bonds that held her. All the respect her family craved, and earned, she smashed. She didn't describe it that way. She called herself courageous.

"I feel like _ the whole world, I can control it now," she said. "I feel good about myself. I lost over 80 pounds. I went from a size 20 to a size 8."

I said many people struggle to break through their families' expectations and to grow into their own adult selves. But doing it by latching on to a murderer seems, well, extreme.

"I just didn't know any other way," she said.

She said she was sorry if she had hurt people. If she included the mothers of Bolin's victims in that apology, she didn't say so. She said they had reacted to her as if she were some mistress, "the mistress of one of their husbands."

Pathetic, they had called her. That hurt Rosalie Martinez.

She said she is not pathetic. Is not.