How a Florida Woman and Convicted Serial Killer on Death Row Met and Fell in Love

Rosalie's husband Oscar Bolin is on death row for the murders of three women.

ByABC News
August 21, 2015, 5:20 PM

— -- Rosalie Bolin says Oscar Ray Bolin is the love of her life, despite the fact that he is a convicted killer on death row.

"It's a love that I never experienced before," Rosalie recently told ABC News' "20/20."

Oscar Ray Bolin was convicted of the 1986 murders of three women, 25-year-old Natalie Blanche Holley, 26-year-old Teri Lynn Matthews and 17-year-old Stephanie Collins. Though Oscar is awaiting execution at Florida State Prison's death row for two of the three murder convictions, Rosalie said she strongly believes Bolin is innocent.

"I never, never, ever thought for a second that he was guilty of those three murders," she said.

Read below to see how their unlikely romance began.

Rosalie and Oscar Bolin are pictured here in an undated photo together at Florida State Prison, where Oscar Bolin is on death row.

1995: Rosalie and Oscar First Meet

In 1995, Rosalie was married to a prominent Tampa attorney and they had four daughters. But despite her family's wealth and success, something was missing, Rosalie said.

"I wanted to break out. I wanted to be loved like I've never been loved before, passion, someone to put me on an emotional pedestal, not with material things," Rosalie told "20/20" in an interview that first aired in November 1996.

Rosalie and Oscar met when she was working in the public defender's office in Hillsborough County and was assigned to his case. Looking through the evidence, she said she became convinced he was innocent, and after working together closely for two years, they fell in love.

Prior to his arrest for the murders, Bolin had been serving time in Ohio for kidnapping and rape. He did plead guilty to kidnapping and raping a woman at gunpoint. When police came to arrest him for the murders of the three young Tampa women, he was in an Ohio prison serving 25 to 75 years in Ohio for kidnapping and rape.

"He pled guilty to that crime," Rosalie said. "And I believe, because I know Oscar very well, if he had committed these three murders, he would have pled to something other than death. ... He's always professed his innocence."

Rosalie Bolin is pictured here during her 1996 wedding over the phone to her husband Oscar Bolin, who is on death row at Florida State Prison.

Oct. 5, 1996: Rosalie and Oscar Marry

Rosalie and Oscar decided to marry, not only out of their growing love, but also in an attempt to draw media attention to his case, Rosalie said.

"If I was his wife, I thought people would listen to me. I was a prominent member of the community. I knew three presidents. [I knew] senators. If Rosalie believes in this, let's get on board," Rosalie said.

ABC News' "20/20" was there when Rosalie Martinez married Oscar Bolin, who is on Florida State Prison's death row.
ABC News' "20/20" was there when Rosalie Martinez married Oscar Bolin, who is on Florida State Prison's death row.

ABC News' "20/20" was there for their wedding in 1996, which took place in Rosalie's apartment, over a speaker phone. A photo of Oscar, who was at Florida State Prison, stood in his place.

Oscar Bolin is pictured here in a mugshot from 1991 on the left and a more recent mugshot on the right.

Oct. 9, 1996: Oscar Is Sentenced to Death

Just three days after their wedding, instead of a honeymoon, the newlywed couple was in a courtroom when Oscar was sentenced to death on Oct. 9, 1996, for the murder of Teri Lynn Matthews.

Since then, Rosalie has worked to prove her husband's innocence and get her husband home.

"The evidence to me doesn't support a conviction. It does not. Oscar Bolin, for me, has not received a fair trial," Rosalie said.

Even now, while working full time as a licensed private investigator and mitigation specialist on other cases, Rosalie said she has analyzed every document, photo and measurement from Oscar's case.

"The shoe tracks were size 10. I know what size my husband wears. He wears a size 8," Rosalie said. "The shoes don't match. Fingerprints don't match."

Since then, the former truck driver has been convicted multiple times -- he's been tried three times in the Matthews case, three times in the Collins case and four times in the Holley case.

Rosalie Bolin, the wife of Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. hugs defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand after Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. was found guilty in the killing of Natalie Blanche Holley, April 19, 2012 in Tampa.

Dec. 21, 2012: Convict That Rosalie Helped Is Acquitted

Besides Oscar's case, Rosalie also looked into the case of Seth Penalver, who was in the cell next to Oscar Bolin on death row.

"I would go to visitation. You know, and I'd see Rosalie in visitation with Oscar," Penalver told "20/20." I heard a lot of good things about her, you know, getting people new trials, people getting exonerated."

After Penalver asked for her help, Rosalie said she unearthed a document showing police paid a key witness to testify against Seth at his trial.

"They paid one of the main witnesses with crime-stopping money and hid that from the defense. He was a drug addict, said whatever the cops wanted him to say," said Rosalie.

Penalver got a new trial in 2012 and was cleared of all charges against him on Dec. 21, 2012.

"She's just that good, just that good. She finds the lies. She finds where things are wrong," Penalver said.

2014: Office of the Inspector General Calls for Review of FBI Agent's Cases

Rosalie found support from FBI special agent-turned-whistle blower Fred Whitehurst. For over 20 years, Whitehurst has been working to expose corruption at the FBI Crime Lab and one agent in particular, Michael Malone.

"Anything that Michael Malone touched, any evidence that he touch is not to be trusted," Whitehurst told "20/20." It can't be. The U.S. government agrees with that."

Malone, the former senior examiner of hair and fibers for the FBI, was in charge of the hair and fiber evidence sent to the FBI in all three of Oscar's murder trials.

He testified that he "was the agent in charge at the FBI lab of this particular case. I was finding a black wool, very dark black wool fiber that showed up in all three cases." He also linked Bolin by hair to the Collins case.

But in 2014, the Office of the Inspector General released a report that said, "Michael Malone repeatedly created scientifically unsupportable lab reports and provided false, misleading or inaccurate testimony at criminal trials."

The report went on to list Oscar's case among 52 others that should be reviewed.

"In my mind, Michael Malone is a serial killer with a lab coat," Rosalie said. "There have been potentially people who have been executed based upon evidence that Michael Malone handled. That's frightening."

Malone declined numerous requests from ABC News for comment on this report.

Present: Where Oscar's Case Stands Today

Oscar and Rosalie are about to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary. Through appeal after appeal, conviction after conviction, Rosalie has supported Oscar through seven of his 11 murder trials,

She visits Oscar twice a week at Florida State Prison, and he sends her love letters and hand drawn cards practically every day. Though no conjugal visits are allowed on death row, Rosalie said it doesn't matter to her.

One of Rosalie's daughters, Katherine, who is now 26, made a short documentary for a college project about her relationship with her mother and what is was like to meet Oscar for the first and only time.

In the documentary called, "It's Nice to Finally Meet You," Katherine got emotional while speaking with Oscar. Katherine and her sisters declined requests for an interview with "20/20."

"It's unfair to make [my children] have to go through the same things that I do, so I completely understand, and I respect that," Rosalie said.

In the next few weeks, Bolin will have two new hearings: one about a claim that another serial killer confessed to the murder of Teri Lynn Matthews and the other about whether the work of a discredited FBI agent should have an impact on Bolin's conviction for Stephanie Collins' murder.

Anita Holley, the sister of murder victim Natalie Blanche Holley, blames Rosalie for dragging out Oscar's execution.

"She actually went on national television proclaiming his innocence. She was enjoying the notoriety, and that just -- oh, my goodness," Holley told "20/20."

Rosalie said, "I feel really sorry for [the victims' families]. I really do. I feel them. I have four beautiful children. I can't imagine. But I want them to understand that I wouldn't have dedicated 20 years of my life on something I don't truly believe in."

And Rosalie said she will continue to fight for Oscar even if he is executed.

"I'm just not going to sit down and be quiet because they can," Rosalie said. "You know, I will fight this 'til my last breath."