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Jamie Bellush, husband of slain Sheila Bellush, pauses for a moment after a twelve hour day in front of the television cameras. To the left of Bellush is a photograph of the quadruplets taken on May 25, 1998.
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]

Husband campaigns for justice at capital

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 17, 1998


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The day had all the makings of Mr. Bellush Goes to Washington.

To watch him, you might never guess Jamie Bellush lost his wife to a killer.

More coverage of the Bellush murder from the pages of the St. Petersburg Times.
Beads of sweat rolled off his brow as he worked the media in 90-degree heat Tuesday. In 12 hours, he sat for seven television interviews, staged a news conference and met separately with Mexican officials, a U.S. senator and a congressman.

Off camera, the ex-Marine joked about Viagra, an impotence drug manufactured by the pharmaceutical company he works for, and bragged about shaking NBC anchor Tim Russert's hand.

As cameras rolled, though, Bellush was a stoic widower-turned-activist, replaying the same message, over and over.

"This man shot my wife in the face and cut her throat in front of our quadruplets," he said, staring into the camera of the Today show. "This man needs to be extradited today!"

Maybe, just maybe, his one-man pitch would make a difference. Maybe the man accused of killing his wife and the mother of six, Sheila Bellush, would be on the next jet out of Mexico.

At the Mexican Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, officials did not promise a speedy extradition.

They told Bellush it would take six months before 22-year-old Jose Luis Del Toro Jr. comes back to Florida to face a first-degree murder charge. They also offered Bellush a free trip to Mexico to give him first-hand knowledge of their judicial process.

A spokesman for the embassy told Today that Del Toro must get due process.

Later, in an interview with the Times, spokesman Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia said: "He is a person. He is a human being, and he is protected."

Bellush says Del Toro should get the electric chair. As he walked through a lush Washington park Tuesday, Bellush joked about the tame squirrels.

"How about I eat one of the squirrels?" he asked. "This is what I'd do to Del Toro . . . arrrr," he said as he imitated biting off a head.

After the Nov. 7 killing in Sarasota, Del Toro fled to Mexico, where he was arrested and jailed in Mexico City. He is appealing extradition. He wants a Mexican judge to decide whether his constitutional rights were violated.

Two other men, Daniel Rocha and Samuel Gonzales, have been charged in Sheila Bellush's death. Gonzales pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder last week and was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Sworn statements have indicated that her ex-husband, Allen Blackthorne, was involved in the crime. Blackthorne, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, has not been charged.

Bellush won't talk publicly about Blackthorne. Privately, he has plenty to say.

A pharmaceutical salesman, Bellush took a vacation day to drive from New Jersey to Washington. He heard there would be developments in the case last week and planned the trip to grab headlines while the story was hot.

He got them.

"I remember when I was in Desert Storm, a pastor told me, "Evil will triumph if good men do nothing,' " said Bellush, carrying two framed photographs of his children and wife under his arm.

A black Cadillac pulled up outside the Days Inn in Washington around 6:10 a.m. It would be his first live spot. And it would be on national television, the Today show. His 14-year-old stepdaughter, Stevie, missed the beginning of her school day to see Dad on television. The night before, Bellush wondered what to wear for the day: a navy blue blazer or gray houndstooth sports coat? He wore the sports coat, a blue shirt, gold Bill Blass tie and gray slacks.

At the studio, makeup artist Penny Ross patted foundation on dark spots under his blue eyes. "My wife was murdered in Sarasota, Fla.," he said. "I don't know if you remember. . . . "

"I do," guest liaison Danielle Benjoar replied. "I'm sorry."

In the studio, anchor Tim Russert prepared to update the country on the lastest with Monica Lewinsky. Bellush noticed him. They shook hands.

"Big fan of yours," Bellush said.

After the Today show, Bellush hit the circuit. By 9 a.m., he had interviewed with three stations. By 10 a.m., he stood outside the Mexican Embassy, courting the media.
In front of the Mexican Embassy Tuesday, Jamie Bellush answers reporters' questions about his wife's slaying. "This guy should be on a plane to Florida tomorrow," Bellush said of the accused killer, who fled to Mexico.
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]

"My wife," he told a clutch of a dozen reporters, "she screams out from the grave."

That done, he answered questions from three more television shows, including America's Most Wanted. He lobbied a senator and congressman.

"They're still dragging their feet," Bellush told U.S. Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J.

"We will see this to the end," Torricelli promised. Last week, Torricelli wrote the Mexican Ambassador. "I am concerned by this delay. . . . I want to urge again that this matter be dealt with as quickly as possible," he wrote.

Before leaving Washington, Bellush had one last stop: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Engraved in the black granite on panel 1W, line 102, was the name of his wife's father: Francis Anthony Walsh Jr., a major in the Air Force. Bellush's son, Francis Anthony Bellush, 2 1/2, was named after her father.

Bellush last visited the memorial with his wife in winter 1993.

She didn't talk much that day. She was 10 when her father's plane was shot down.

"I'm just mad," she told Bellush.

"Why?" he asked.

"I never got to know him."


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