A jury took less than two hours to find Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. guilty Thursday in the stabbing death of Natalie Blanche Holley, and a judge then sentenced him to life in prison.
This was Bolin's 10th murder trial and the fourth for the Holley case, which dates back to 1986.
Bolin was transported to the trial from death row, where he was awaiting execution in two other 1986 murders in the Tampa area. Juries have repeatedly convicted Bolin and sentenced him to death numerous times, but appeals courts have overturned his convictions and sentences, leading to more trials.
Although he was sentenced to death twice in Holley's murder, the third trial resulted in a conviction on a lesser charge of second-degree murder, taking the death penalty off the table. However, that conviction was overturned.
Kathleen Reeves, the mother of one of Bolin's other victims, Teri Lynn Matthews, said she wasn't surprised by the verdict. Holley's mother could not come to the trial, but Reeves said she's determined to see Bolin put to death.
"I'll be here," she vowed. "If I'm in my death throes, I'll still be around when he's executed. I'll make sure of it."
She said she might talk to the governor to see if he can schedule an execution.
"These trials are costing the state a lot," she said. "What does death row mean? It's a pretty cush life, evidently. He doesn't look much older. He gets all the medical and dental care or anything else that he needs. And he has a cell all to himself. He doesn't have to face the other guys in the prison."
Reeves said the trials are "just a way for him to get out. … You can see him up there. He looks like he's in control of everything. And then they slap the bracelets on and his demeanor changes."
Bolin's wife, Rosalie, wept after the verdict was announced and hugged his lawyers.
Rosalie Bolin, who left her husband and children to marry him after she was assigned to his case by the public defender's office as a "mitigation specialist," didn't want to talk to reporters.
All she would say is, "We worked really hard."
Defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand said he agreed to represent Bolin free of charge because two people — one a state inmate — said separately that they heard a New York man confess to killing Holley. Brunvand said that information, combined with questions raised nationally about work by FBI lab technicians, is "why I took it because I thought maybe he didn't commit this murder," Brunvand said.
Brunvand said that when defense attorneys tried to interview the New York man, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The prosecution persuaded the judge to prevent that testimony from being used in the trial.
In closing arguments Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Chris Jensen told jurors the evidence points to a conviction for Bolin, who took numerous steps to cover up the crime — wiping down Holley's car, using a branch to brush away tire and shoe tracks outside her car and then washing his own car.
"But try as he might, this defendant can't wipe away all the evidence in this case," Jensen said. "He could not outrun the facts. He could not outrun the evidence, the law or justice. You see the reach of justice is long. And in this case, Miss Holley, though dead, held a key, key piece of evidence in her right hand. Remember that hair that was found in her right hand at the scene."
An FBI analysis concluded Bolin was among the 0.17 percent of Caucasians who fit the DNA profile of a hair found clutched in the victim's hand.
And Bolin lived in a trailer with Holley's co-worker and met her about a month before she was killed.
Bolin also was seen by a law enforcement officer with an unknown woman in a car near where the victim's car was later discovered. Bolin's car was also seen, and the officer ran the license plate, Jensen recalled.
"It was this defendant, out of those 0.17 percent of Caucasians who woke his wife up sometime after 2 a.m. wearing bloody Trax tennis shoes," Jensen told the jury. "The Trax prints, remember, were taken in a plaster cast right outside the victim's car."
Following the conviction, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee ordered Bolin sent to death row immediately, saying he was "not to spend one more minute in the Hillsborough County jail system,'' said sheriff's Detective Larry McKinnon.