Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brooksville, FL: Before rampage, escalation

By Tony Marrero and Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writers

Published Saturday, January 16, 2010

BROOKSVILLE — Friends say Kathryn Donovan feared her brother and wanted him to stay away from her and her family.

But when Donovan and a family friend had the chance last year to push hard to get John Kalisz confined to a cell, they agreed to leniency.

Months before the 55-year-old roofer went on a rampage that left three dead including Donovan, Kalisz faced a total of up to 10 years in prison on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and lewd and lascivious contact with a child — his niece.

According to police reports, Kalisz had on several occasions exposed himself and masturbated in front of Donovan's daughter Manessa, who was 17 at the time, in his sister's home. Kalisz had also grabbed her buttocks as she walked past him, Hernando County Sheriff's Office reports state.

When Manessa Donovan's boyfriend confronted Kalisz, a report states, Kalisz unfolded a Buck knife and held the blade several inches from the boyfriend's stomach. Kalisz later went to Colorado and sent a text message to Donovan's daughter saying that he had left a present for her under her mattress.

She found nude photos of Kalisz, which the report said the daughter destroyed.

In October, Kalisz pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Kathryn and her daughter's boyfriend, Richard Panzini, both agreed to a plea deal that called for six years of sex offender probation for Kalisz.

Panzini had moved to Massachusetts by then and didn't want to continue with the prosecution, said Don Barbee, supervising prosecutor for the Hernando County State Attorney's Office.

As for Donovan, she was reluctant to see her brother go to prison and agreed to the plea deal, prosecutors said.

"In the delinquency case, that's what the family wanted," Barbee said.

The Donovans did get some protection from Kalisz, though.

Kalisz, who has a lengthy arrest record that spans at least three states and several Florida counties, was adjudicated guilty of both charges by a judge, and given permission to serve his sex offender probation in Colorado.

He was not declared a sex offender under Florida law, but was subjected to the same restrictions for six years: He was banned from unsupervised contact with children, forbidden anywhere children can gather and sentenced to evaluation, treatment and regular polygraph tests.

He was also ordered to have no contact with any of the victims.

Kathryn Donovan had sought similar protection in December of the previous year by filing an injunction against domestic violence that ultimately was dropped because she didn't show up to the court hearing.

But now, in the wake of her brother's conviction, Donovan had that protection.

However, Donovan recently purchased a gun and had taken classes because she was scared, according to Kim Wagner, a Homosassa resident who said she was a close friend of Donovan's for some 18 years.

On Thursday, whatever fears Donovan had were realized when, authorities say, Kalisz drove up to his sister's house in a rural neighborhood in Brooksville, walked in the front and started shooting.

He fired about 15 rounds, officials said, killing Donovan, 61, and her 59-year-old employee, Deborah Tillotson.

Manessa Donovan, now 18, and another employee in the home-based fabrics business, 33-year-old Amy Wilson, each suffered multiple gunshot wounds and survived. Manessa Donovan was two months pregnant and lost the fetus during surgery.

Officials said Manessa Donovan was off a respirator by Friday afternoon and talking. Updates on the conditions of the two women were not available Saturday.

Two hours after fleeing his sister's home, Kalisz shot Dixie County sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed during a gunfight in Cross City, authorities said. Reed died at Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

Kalisz was shot six times and injured. Updates on his condition were unavailable Saturday.

If Kalisz survives, he'll face prosecution in two counties and two different judicial circuits. Ric Ridgeway, chief assistant state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, said it will be some time before his office decides whether Kalisz should face the death penalty for his alleged crimes in Hernando. But which circuit will try Kalisz first?

"We have not decided who is going to get first shot at him," said State Attorney Robert L. "Skip" Jarvis Jr., of the 3rd Circuit, which would prosecute Kalisz for Reed's death.

In 1982, Kalisz was convicted in Martin County for burglary and carrying a concealed weapon. He was arrested 15 more times in Florida between then and the end of last year, records show, mostly for misdemeanors including disorderly intoxication, petty larceny and fraud.

His arrest record in Connecticut, where he lived earlier, was not immediately available this week, but Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent said Kalisz was arrested on a weapons charge there last February.

When asked Friday if Kalisz had slipped through the cracks of the judicial system, Nugent noted that many of his prior arrests and convictions were for minor offenses. The most recent charges, he acknowledged, were more substantial —- and a dangerous sign.

"It looks like he was escalating his deviant behavior," he said.

Reed's funeral service is slated for 3 p.m. today at First Baptist Church of Cross City, 16024 SE U.S. 19.

Tony Marrero can be reached at or (352) 848-1431.

'Our hearts and prayers go out'

Becky Berarducci, a resident of Plainville, Conn., and the sister of John Kalisz and Kathryn Donovan, issued a statement Saturday:

"The family of John Kalisz is very deeply saddened by the tragic events of Thursday, Jan. 14, which claimed the lives of three people. We grieve for our sister, Kathryn, and her family, as we also grieve for Deborah Buckley Tillotson, who was so innocently gunned down. We grieve for Capt. Chad Reed, who was killed in the line of duty, and we are truly sorry. We keep Manessa Donovan and Amy Wilson in our prayers, as they struggle to recover. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families involved and who have been affected by this most devastating incident. At this time, we request that our privacy be respected."

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