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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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Grim ritual links killer, families once again
Relatives of a murderer's victims reunite to fight his attempts to go free.
By MOLLY MOORHEAD, Times Staff Writer
Published December 20, 2007
John Blasi, 48, is serving a 203-year sentence in the slayings of Thomas Hollywood and Beatrice Egan.
The parole hearings have an air of familiarity now.
The families of John Blasi's victims are there, along with prosecutors, all arguing for his continued imprisonment.
This group has come together many times since Blasi went to trial for murdering two people in Holiday 27 years ago and since a jury erred in convicting him of a lesser charge - an error that gives him these chances at freedom.
On Wednesday, they came together again, with the same result as always.
The Florida Parole Commission in Tallahassee denied Blasi's request to be re-evaluated for parole in a year, which would be the first step toward his release.
Blasi, now 48, is serving a 203-year sentence in the deaths of Thomas Hollywood and Beatrice Egan. On Feb. 10, 1981, Hollywood was locking up the clothing store where he worked part time when Blasi drove up to rob him. Hollywood, a retired New York City police officer, stood up, and Blasi shot him in the stomach. Then Blasi got into his car and circled the parking lot, firing at Hollywood four more times.
Egan, a waitress at a nearby barbecue restaurant, witnessed the shooting. When she went to aid the dying Hollywood, Blasi drove back and shot her.
Jurors meant to convict him of two counts of first-degree murder but made a mistake filling out the verdict form, convicting him instead of attempted murder.
The judge in the case said he couldn't correct the error, but he sentenced Blasi to the maximum: two centuries in prison.
Under old state sentencing guidelines, Blasi has become eligible for parole numerous times. Always, the families of Hollywood and Egan show up to object.
Liz Hollywood-Trentacosta, one of Hollywood's six children, was there Wednesday with her mother and sister.
She said that after so many years, it's actually getting easier.
Representatives from various police unions - who never met her father but have taken up his cause - sit with her. The parole board members shake her hand.
"These are the same people that we were sitting with five years ago, and yet they listen attentively. I know they know the story," she said by phone after the hearing.
Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties, said he has his speech memorized and knows those involved by their first names.
"We certainly are devoting all available resources to make sure everything is done so that he has no opportunity to get out. And we'll continue to do so in the future.
"The whole thing was a miscarriage of justice."
Patrick Buckley of Palm Harbor is Egan's last living sibling. He attended the hearing with some of his nieces and nephews, who are stepping up to fight Blasi's release.
The hearings, he said, are always emotional. If there's anything good about them, it's reuniting with the people they have grown close to over the years - the Hollywoods.