(CN) - Three trials on a capital murder charge, 20 years of labyrinthine appeals, and a smitten private investigator whom he married in prison did not save convicted serial killer Oscar Bolin from execution Thursday night.
The inmate known as "Bolin the Butcher" was put to death by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on Jan. 7, after spending more than two decades in prison for abducting and killing three women.
His death warrant was signed for the murder of Teri Lynn Matthews, a woman found bludgeoned on the side of a rural Pasco County, Fla. road in 1986.
Bolin went through three trials for the murder, as the Florida Supreme Court repeatedly reversed the state court's guilty verdicts, citing questionable jury-screening procedures and improper fielding of spousal testimony by Bolin's ex-wife.
In 2001, the last jury in the Matthews murder case found that Bolin was indeed the man who abducted the 26-year-old outside a post office, raped, stabbed and clubbed her to death.
Bolin's half-brother Phillip testified that on the night of Matthews' disappearance, Bolin showed up with the body wrapped in a sheet, telling him the woman had been hurt during an off-the-rails drug deal. Phillip, 13 at the time of the incident, said Bolin asked him to help dispose of the body in exchange for money, an offer which he refused.
Phillip had reportedly recanted his account well prior to the final trial, but he ultimately reaffirmed the gruesome narrative and professed that family members had pressured him into the recantation.
Solidifying the evidence against Bolin was a forensic expert's testimony that he matched several bands of Bolin's DNA to a sample taken from Matthews' body.
According to court documents, Michelle Steen, the spouse of Bolin's cousin, further testified that in 1987, while visiting her home, Bolin said he had murdered a girl in Florida and put a hose down her throat, and that Phillip had watched him do it.
Fighting his third conviction for the murder, Bolin filed a string of appeals with the aid of Rosalie Martinez, a private investigator who professed her love for Bolin after she met him in prison working on his defense.
Martinez made international headlines when she wed Bolin while he was behind bars.
For years, she helped Bolin construct his argument for innocence, largely based on the notion that forensic evidence had been handled by FBI agent Michael Malone, a hair-and-fiber analyst accused of giving fraudulent testimony in other criminal trials.
Bolin also pointed to Ohio inmate Steven Kasler, who allegedly confessed to Matthews' murder.
Florida courts and later the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the supposedly exculpatory evidence. The Eleventh Circuit sided with state prosecutors' argument that Kasler was unreliable as he had given numerous false murder confessions and had provided no details of Matthews' abduction apart from what was widely available in media coverage.
The appeals court went on to find that the disgraced FBI agent's work on fibers from the Matthews case was not used as trial evidence. Forensic experts other than Malone were responsible for managing the pertinent case samples presented at trial, the court ruled.
Bolin's execution was scheduled for 6 pm Jan. 7, but the U.S. Supreme Court reportedly delayed the affair for about three hours pending review of his certiorari petition.
The first prisoner to be executed in the United States this year, Bolin was put to death late Thursday evening, more than 24 years after his initial murder conviction.
Bolin had been in prison for Matthews' murder and the slaying of two other Florida women.
The first victim, Hillsborough County restaurant manager Natalie Blanche Holley, was killed in January 1986. Holley's family endured four trials stretching from 1991 to 2012, each ending in a guilty verdict for Bolin.
The second, teenager Stephanie Collins, was slain between November and December of 1986, around the time of Matthews' murder. Juries that heard the Collins case voted unanimously for Bolin's execution.
Authorities did not link the slayings to Bolin until 1990, when his ex-wife Cheryl Coby's new husband called a tip line to report that Cheryl had implicated Bolin.
Cheryl then allegedly informed authorities that she had helped Bolin hide evidence.
Bolin was already serving a jail sentence in Ohio for rape when he was indicted for the Florida murders.
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