Justices affirm death penalty in 1986 slayings of Tampa women
TAMPA - The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., convicted in the slayings of three Tampa women 27 years ago. “We affirm Bolin’s conviction and sentence of death,” the judges said in the order signed Thursday. “It is so ordered.” The curt statement could seal the fate of Bolin, who has been granted several appeals and retrials in the three murder cases over the last two decades. Juries have convicted Bolin and sentenced him to death numerous times, but appeals courts have overturned his conviction and sentences, which led to more trials.Bolin, now 51, filed an appeal to dismiss his conviction and death sentence in the case involving Stephanie Collins, a Chamberlain High School senior who was abducted from the parking lot of a Carrollwood drugstore in 1986. After a search that lasted more than a month, the body of Collins, 17, was found near Morris Bridge Road. She had a fractured skull and had been stabbed at least six times, court documents said. Collins’ mother, Donna Witmer, said she’s hopeful the Supreme Court ruling will keep Bolin on death row and out of court. “It can avoid future retrials,” she said. But Witmer, who has supported the other victims’ mothers by attending all of Bolin’s retrials, said it may be years before the families get closure. “It’s just one step,” Witmer said of the ruling. “It still takes a long time for any death warrant to be signed by the governor.” In his appeal, Bolin said the videotaped testimony of his ex-wife, Cheryl Coby, was not admissible in court because it violated spousal privilege. According to state law, a person has the right to not talk, or to prevent someone else from disclosing, “communications which were intended to be made in confidence between the spouses while they were husband and wife.” Before her death from a terminal illness, Coby testified that she had seen Bolin hide Collins’ body and noticed blood stains in their travel trailer. The court ruled that Coby’s testimony “regarding what she witnessed is not privileged” or confidential information. Bolin also argued that a suicide note he wrote that later was used as evidence in one of his trials violated his Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Bolin attempted suicide in his cell in 1991 and left the note in a stamped envelope, addressed to one of the detention deputies, in plain view on top of a cardboard box, court documents said. The court ruled that Bolin’s claim has no merit, because a prisoner does not have a “legitimate, subjective expectation of privacy in his or her cell.” Bolin is on death row in Florida State Prison in Raiford for Collins’ slaying. Last year, Bolin was found guilty in the stabbing death of Natalie Blanche Holley, 25, who was abducted after leaving a restaurant in January 1986. It was Bolin’s fourth trial in the Holley case. This time, he received a sentence of life in prison. Bolin also was found guilty and sentenced to die for the killing of Teri Lynn Matthews, 26. Matthews’ body was found on railroad tracks in central Pasco County the same day Collins’ body was found in Hillsborough.