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Thu Aug 27, 2020, 11:22 AM

30 years ago this week: Gainesville university students terrorized by a serial killer (GRAPHIC)

Last edited Thu Aug 27, 2020, 12:14 PM - Edit history (1)

I remember these crimes vividly. It was so shocking at the time. Police thought they had a good suspect at one point but he turned out to be completely innocent. The person who committed these heinous crimes, Danny Rolling, definitely met the definition of a serial killer, but what was strange about his spree was how compressed it was in time, with no so-called "cooling off period" between killings. It was like Ted Bundy's final attack on a sorority, almost like the killer was burning out and wanted to be captured. So sometimes I think of Rolling as a spree killer rather than a serial killer, because of this outrageous burst of activity. He mutilated and posed his victims in such a way that the scenes would horrify and traumatize even hardened detectives. In other cases, like the Hillside Stranglers, over time they became more bold and provocative. Rolling just exploded suddenly, going full-on lunatic. I don't know if there was a triggering event in his life prior to these killings.

The poignant mural/memorial that was put up right after these murders, honoring the victims, is still there.

In August 1990, Rolling murdered five students (one student from Santa Fe College and four from the University of Florida) during a burglary and robbery spree in Gainesville, Florida. He mutilated his victims' bodies, decapitating one. He then posed them, sometimes using mirrors.

In the early morning hours of Friday, August 24, Rolling broke into the apartment shared by 17-year-old university freshmen Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. Finding Powell asleep on the downstairs couch, he stood over her briefly but did not wake her up, choosing instead to explore the upstairs bedroom where Larson was also asleep. Rolling murdered Larson, first taping her mouth shut to stifle her screams and then stabbing her to death. She died while trying to fend him off.[3]

Rolling then went back downstairs, taped Powell's mouth shut, bound her wrists together behind her back and threatened her with a knife as he cut her clothes off of her. He then raped her and forced her face-down onto the floor, where he stabbed her five times in the back. Rolling posed the bodies in sexually provocative positions. He took a shower before leaving the apartment.[3]

A day later, on Saturday, August 25, Rolling broke into the apartment of 18-year-old Christa Hoyt, prying open a sliding glass door with a KA-BAR knife and a screwdriver. Finding she was not home, he waited in the living room for her to return. At 11 a.m., Hoyt entered the apartment and Rolling surprised her from behind, placing her in a chokehold. After she had been subdued, he taped her mouth shut, bound her wrists together and led her into the bedroom, where he cut the clothes from her body and raped her. As in the Powell murder, he forced her face-down and stabbed her in the back, rupturing her heart. He then decapitated the body and posed her head on a shelf facing the corpse, adding to the shock of whoever discovered her.[3]

By now the murders had attracted widespread media attention and many students were taking extra precautions, such as changing their daily routines and sleeping together in groups. Because the spree was happening so early in the fall semester, some students withdrew their enrollment or transferred to other schools. Tracy Paules, who was 23 years old, was living with Manny Taboada, also 23, her roommate. On Monday, August 27, Rolling broke into the apartment by prying open the sliding glass door with the same tools he had used previously. Rolling found Taboada asleep in one of the bedrooms and, after a struggle with the young man, eventually killed him.[3]

Hearing the commotion, Paules went down the hall to Taboada's bedroom and saw Rolling. She attempted to barricade herself in her bedroom, but Rolling broke through the door. Rolling taped her mouth and wrists, cut off her clothing and raped her, before turning her over and stabbing her three times in the back. Rolling posed Paules' body but left Taboada's in the same position in which he had died.[3]

With the exception of Taboada, all of the victims were petite Caucasian brunettes with brown eyes. Although law enforcement initially had very few leads, police did identify two suspects; one a University of Florida student (Edward Humphrey) who had a history of mental illness and bore numerous scars on his face from a car accident, making him an ideal image when discussing news about the investigation. His photo was shown repeatedly by media outlets. Authorities publicly cleared him of all charges after Rolling's arrest. The other suspect was also later cleared.


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Reply 30 years ago this week: Gainesville university students terrorized by a serial killer (GRAPHIC) (Original post)
Mike 03 Aug 2020 OP
Siwsan Aug 2020 #1

Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Thu Aug 27, 2020, 11:46 AM

1. I just watched a documentary on this case

And I remember it well, from when it happened. Absolutely horrifying.

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