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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Killer wants out, but families don't forget
A killer's parole hearing rekindles the horror for family and friends of the two people he killed.
By MOLLY MOORHEAD, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007
Jurors found Thomas Francis Blasi guilty, but then checked the wrong box in the paperwork.
Patrick Buckley, right, is unsure if he could control his emotions in front of the Parole Commission. He has always stood in opposition of the release of his sister's killer, Thomas Francis Blasi.
Patrick Buckley is the only sibling left to speak for his sister.
Beatrice Egan was murdered almost 27 years ago. Her killer has repeatedly sought release from prison, and Buckley has always stood in opposition, joined by two sisters and a brother.
Now they're dead - and another parole hearing looms.
But Buckley is not sure he can adequately explain to the Florida Parole Commission why Egan's killer should stay locked up.
"I don't know if I could control my emotions," Buckley, 55, said last week.
No matter. The next generation is ready.
"There's nothing that will stop us," said Kelly Landy, one of Egan's 13 nieces and nephews.
* * *
In 1981, Thomas Hollywood was a retired New York City cop living in west Pasco County. About 8 p.m. on Feb. 10, he was locking up the clothing store where he worked as a part-time salesman when a gold Trans-Am drove up. John Blasi, then 21, got out and flashed a gun, Hollywood stood up to him and Blasi shot him in the stomach. He jumped in his car but circled back and fired four more times at Hollywood, who was supposed to be off work that night.
People nearby rushed out to help. Beatrice Egan, a waitress at a barbecue joint, was one of them. Blasi drove back again and opened fire on her.
Egan was 48, single with no children of her own but an adoring extended family. Hollywood, 51, left behind a wife and six children.
Jurors in Blasi's trial took just 90 minutes to decide he was guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
If only it had ended there.
The panel made a mistake on the verdict form, instead checking the box next to "attempted first-degree murder."
A judge determined he couldn't overturn the verdict but imposed the maximum sentence on Blasi: 203 years in prison. He added a rare provision giving the court system jurisdiction over Blasi for 66 years, meaning any decision to release him must be approved by a Pasco judge.
Blasi is eligible for parole only because his case is governed by old sentencing guidelines. Today, inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
But Blasi has earned credit for good behavior and performance in prison jobs. At his last hearing in 2003, an examiner recommended he be released.
The parole commission denied him then, but he has another chance on Wednesday.
* * *
Tracy Hardy, one of Egan's nieces, isn't worried that if released, Blasi would kill again.
She has read the letter he wrote that is part of his parole worksheet. In it, he says he accepts responsibility for his crime and asks for forgiveness.
But for all the time Blasi denied her with her Aunt Bea, for the suffering he caused her father, Hardy says he should not be free.
"I don't think he deserves to go out and live his life," said Hardy, who is 47 and lives on Long Island, N.Y.
Her sister, Kelly Landy, distinguishes between the things Blasi seeks:
"Forgiveness and freedom are two totally separate things. God may forgive him, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be free," Landy, 45, said.
* * *
Liz Hollywood-Trentacosta, also a New Yorker, says attending the parole hearings is like getting the news of her father's murder all over again.
This is one is especially hard, so close to Christmas.
"We look at our pictures and we try to be happy, but it's just so messed up," she says through tears. "How could Florida do this to us?"
Over the years she has appealed her father's cause to people she knew would listen: other cops.
She spread the message through law enforcement unions in New York and associations for retired officers.
A few years ago, it reached a retired cop named Gary Gorman.
Most of the homicides he saw in his career were motivated by drugs, passion, revenge or organized crime. The callousness of this one struck a nerve.
Gorman, 57, has written letters to the parole board and last week contacted a Times reporter, adamant that Blasi should not go free.
He never knew Thomas Hollywood.
* * *
Blasi's release plan tells how he would live on the outside.
Now 48, he has a wife named Ginger who lives in Orlando, according to the documents. She could not be reached.
As a backup, Blasi could live with his parents in Spring Hill.
They declined to comment.
His health is good, but he has no money. His employment is to be determined.
This time, Blasi is not recommended for release. Instead the report suggests he be re-evaluated again in one year.