Florida killer put to death in first U.S. execution of year

By Bill Cotterell

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - A former carnival worker convicted of killing three women in Florida was executed on Thursday after multiple overturned convictions and retrials, the first U.S. execution of 2016.

Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., 53, was pronounced dead from lethal injection at 10:16 p.m. EST at the Florida State Prison in Starke, 11 minutes after the procedure began, Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis said.

Bolin declined to make a final statement, Lewis said. The U.S. Supreme Court denied last-minute motions to stay the execution.

Governor Rick Scott signed Bolin's death warrant in October for the murder of bank worker Teri Lynn Matthews, 26. She was abducted from a Land O' Lakes post office in December 1986, then raped, beaten and stabbed to death.

Bolin was also found guilty in the Tampa-area slayings of Natalie Blanche Holley, 25, and Stephanie Collins, 17, earlier that year.

He maintained his innocence in a television interview on Wednesday despite being found guilty 10 times by juries in the three cases.

"I never killed those women," Bolin told Tampa Bay's Fox 13. "I don’t have no remorse for something I didn’t do."

Bolin drew international attention in 1996 when he wed a member of his defense team on national television from death row. Rosalie Martinez divorced her husband, a prominent Tampa attorney, to marry Bolin, who she had worked to clear.

She maintained his innocence and visited him on his final day. Bolin's last meal was steak, baked potato, salad and lemon meringue pie, a Department of Corrections spokesman said.

The execution was the first this year in the United States. There were 28 U.S. executions last year, the lowest number since 1991, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

Bolin's case was marked by multiple overturned convictions before guilty verdicts stuck in each of the women's deaths.

Bolin's death sentence in the Matthews case was upheld in 2004 after three trials. He was sentenced to death three times for the Collins slaying, the last in 2007. After four trials, Bolin began serving life in prison in 2012 for Holley's murder.

Matthews' mother, Kathleen Reeves, told Reuters before the execution: "We just need to get rid of him and throw him in the trash."


(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Tait)