Daniel Harold ROLLING
A.K.A.: "The Gainesville Ripper"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Sex with corpse - Mutilator
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: 1989 - 1990
Date of arrest: September 8, 1990
Date of birth: May 26, 1954
Victims profile: Julie Grissom, 24, her nephew Sean Grissom, 8, and her father Tom Grissom, 55 / Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17 / Christa Hoyt, 18 /Manuel "Manny" Taboada, 23, and Tracy Paules, 23
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Louisiana/Florida, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Florida on October 25, 2006
Known as the Gainesville Ripper, Rolling murdered four University of Florida students and a Santa Fe Community College student in their apartments in 1990. He decapitated one victim, posed with some of the bodies, removed skin and body parts and arranged the murder scenes using props that included broken mirrors.
The macabre slayings began on August 24, 1990 when Rolling broke into the apartment of 17-year-old university freshmen Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. They were found mutilated and stabbed to death. He had raped both women, one after she was dead.
The next day, Rolling killed Hoyt, 18. Her body was found propped up, sitting on her bed bent over at the waist. Rolling had sliced off her nipples and left them on the bed next to her, and police discovered that her torso was sliced open, from her chest to her pubic bone. Her severed head perched on a shelf across the room.
Two days later, Rolling killed roommates Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada, both 23.
Rolling remained at large until September 8, when he was arrested after a botched robbery in the central Florida town of Ocala.
He was later linked by DNA to three more killings in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1989.
He was not charged in the Gainesville slayings until 1992, while serving a life sentence for armed robbery and other crimes. He pleaded guilty to all five murders as the jury was being selected for trial in 1994.
Rolling v. State, 695 So.2d 278 (Fla. 1997) (Direct Appeal).
Rolling v. State, 825 So.2d 293 (Fla. 2002) (PCR).
Rolling v. Dugger, --- So.2d ----, 2006 WL 2956382 (Fla. 2006) (Successive Postconviction).
Final / Special Meal:
Lobster tail, shrimp, a baked potato, strawberry cheese cake and sweet tea.
Asked if he had any final words, witnesses at the execution said Rolling sang a song in which he repeated the line "None greater than thee, oh Lord," as relatives of the slain students watched in the death chamber.
Florida Department of Corrections
DC Number: 521178
Name: ROLLING, DANNY H
Alias: MICHAEL KENNEDY, DANNY ROLLING, DANNY HAROLD ROLLING, DANNY HAROLE ROLLING
Hair Color: BROWN
Eye Color: HAZEL
Height: 6' 01"
Birth Date: 05/26/1954
Initial Reception: 05/27/83
Current Facility: FLORIDA STATE PRISON
The Execution of Danny Rolling
Killer Danny Rolling sings at his execution; The killer of five young people in Gainesville sings his own hymn as his final words
By Marc Caputo and Stephanie Garry - Miami Herald
Oct. 26, 2006
STARKE - Danny Harold Rolling, the murderous serial rapist and mutilator who paralyzed an entire college town with fear, didn't give a last word Wednesday before he died in Florida's death chamber. He sang his own hymn.
While restrained in a gurney, Rolling turned his head and briefly gazed with pale blue eyes at the mother of one of his five victims, then sang in a haunting Louisiana drawl of angels, mountains and, in a reference to St. Paul, of seeing "through a glass now, darkly.'' For three minutes, as the lethal-injection drugs were about to pump into him, Rolling chanted the refrain, ''None greater than thee, Oh Lord. None greater than thee.''
He continued to sing or speak in the windowed chamber after the microphone was cut. Never once did he mention sorrow or regret for his deadly Gainesville rampage 16 years ago that snuffed out five young people. Nor did he sing of the pain it caused, or ask for forgiveness.
And there was little forgiveness coming from the dozen family members in the witness room that was packed with 30 other spectators. Ricky Paules, the mother at whom Rolling had glanced, said she had one reaction: "Hatred. Very, very bitter throughout the whole thing. I saw his breath go out of him. . . . We waited for this time. And justice was done.'' With Rolling's death, she said, she could remember only her daughter, Tracy Paules.
Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m., 13 minutes after he started singing and two minutes after his body stopped quivering and his jowls fell, puffed and discolored. He was the 63rd person executed since 1973, when Florida reinstated the death penalty.
In only one respect did Rolling's death mirror that of his victims -- he was bound and helpless. But unlike his victims, Rolling wasn't attacked by ambush while he slept. His victims were stabbed so hard with his U.S. Marine Corps-style KBAR knife that their chipped and slashed bones were later shown to the jury.
After Rolling was pronounced dead, the staff at Florida State Prison wheeled his body out. In contrast, Rolling posed his mutilated victims in sexually provocative positions and kept body parts as trophies.
''I'm a nurse, and I've seen my patients die. And they died a much more horrific death than what this man suffered through, that's for sure. He relaxed, went to sleep, did not feel anything,'' Dianna Hoyt, stepmother of victim Christa Hoyt, said later. "Today's been a very surreal day for me. It's like a dream, walking through a dream.''
Outside the death chamber in a nearby pasture, anti-death penalty protesters sung Kumbaya and Blowin' in the Wind. Dozens of media satellite trucks sprouted in another area, in a scene reminiscent of the 1989 electric-chair execution of Florida's most notorious killer, Ted Bundy. A year after Bundy's death, Rolling arrived in Gainesville on a Greyhound bus, pitched a tent in the woods and recorded a tape of self-written songs for his family. Years later, at an appeals hearing, Rolling broke out in song in honor of a woman he asked to marry him from prison.
Reared Pentecostal, Rolling sought spiritual advice on his last day from a minister of the church. Prosecutors and Rolling himself said he swung between deep faith and pure evil. At some point, Rolling later said, he vowed to kill a person for each of the eight years he had spent in prisons in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In addition to the five Gainesville murders, Rolling is suspected of killing a family of three, the Grissoms, in his native Shreveport, La.
Another motive for his killings: Rolling later said in one of his confessions that he wanted to become a ''superstar.'' His tools were simple: his Ka-Bar knife; duct tape; a handgun and a screwdriver for break-ins. For his first double homicide in Gainesville, he didn't even need the screwdriver or gun when he saw the door was unlocked at town house 113 in the Williamsburg Village Apartments.
Rolling found Christina Powell, 17, sleeping downstairs. Upstairs, Sonja Larson was asleep as well. He bound them both, raped one and stabbed them to death. Their bodies were found the Sunday before the fall semester was to begin at the University of Florida. They hadn't even unpacked all their boxes. The next morning, 18-year-old Christa Hoyt was found decapitated, her head wedged on a bookshelf. And the following day, Paules and her apartment mate friend, Manny Taboada, both 23, were found dead.
The town of Gainesville was in a panic. Scores of state and federal police swept in and drew blood samples from a number of men. A rumor hot line produced numerous bad leads, and whispers that police were hiding more bodies to cover up an even more massive slaying. Hundreds of University of Florida students disenrolled. Others slept a dozen to a house. Deadbolt locks flew off the shelves. So did guns.
Unknown to authorities, Rolling was arrested shortly after the killings on an unrelated charge of robbing a grocery store. Investigators focused on him at the suggestion of Louisiana authorities investigating the Grissom killings.
On Wednesday, that long-ago sweltering August seemed far away. The day was crisp and the emotions were far more muted. Death-penalty supporters whistled and clapped with word of Rolling's demise. Opponents methodically banged a hammer on an anvil. Tonya Wilson, 34, said she attended to remember her roommates, Larson and Powell, with whom she was to room in 1990. ''I'm here for Christi and Sonja,'' she said, holding back tears. "I told them I would be from the beginning.'' She said she's glad Rolling is finally dead, but wishes the punishment better fit the crime.
'EYE FOR AN EYE'
''I'm an eye-for-an-eye kind of person,'' she said. "I think he's getting off so easy it's sickening.'' Others mulled the best punishment: electrocution; crucifixion; stoning; an ice pick. They agreed that he had it too easy, as if he were a sick dog being put to sleep.
But Deborah Michaud, 35, looked into the sun with tears streaming down her face, in silent opposition to the death penalty. Paules and Taboada were her childhood friends; they grew up together, attending the same elementary and junior high schools in the Carol City area. ''I feel really helpless,'' she said. "I don't know what I can do to stop executions, and I also don't know what I can do to stop violence. But I feel this is not the answer.''
Florida executes 'Ripper' who terrorized campus
By Michael Peltier - Reuters News
Oct 25, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Florida on Wednesday executed a serial killer whose grisly murders of five students 16 years ago haunted students at a major university and sent a chill through college campuses across the United States. Danny Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at Florida State Prison near Starke minutes after he was injected with a lethal dose of chemicals that paralyzed his lungs and stopped his heart.
Asked if he had any final words, witnesses at the execution said Rolling sang a song in which he repeated the line "None greater than thee, oh Lord," as relatives of the slain students watched in the death chamber. "Maybe now that this is over with and we don't have this cause to fight for, we can try and relax and live with our memories of our children and be at peace with that," said Diana Hoyt, the stepmother of Christa Hoyt, one of the victims.
Known as the Gainesville Ripper, Rolling murdered four University of Florida students and a Santa Fe Community College student in their apartments in 1990. He decapitated one victim, posed with some of the bodies, removed skin and body parts and arranged the murder scenes using props that included broken mirrors.
Panic hit the university town after the murders. Some students went home, others bought guns or moved in together for protection. Many feared it was only a matter of time before it happened again. The macabre slayings began on August 24, when Rolling broke into the apartment of 17-year-old university freshmen Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. They were found mutilated and stabbed to death. He had raped both women, one after she was dead.
The next day, Rolling killed Hoyt, 18. Her body was found sitting up in bed; her severed head perched on a shelf across the room. Two days later, Rolling killed roommates Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada, both 23.
Rolling remained at large until September 8, when he was arrested after a botched robbery in the central Florida town of Ocala. He was later linked by DNA to three more killings in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1989.
He was not charged in the Gainesville slayings until 1992, while serving a life sentence for armed robbery and other crimes. He pleaded guilty to all five murders as the jury was being selected for trial in 1994. In prison Rolling became engaged to Sondra London, with whom he coauthored "The Making of a Serial Killer," which chronicles his life and the murders.
On his last day, Rolling met in the morning with his brother, Kevin, and two clergymen, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. Rolling's last meal consisted of lobster tail, shrimp, a baked potato, strawberry cheese cake and sweet tea.
Pro- and anti-death penalty demonstrators gathered in a field outside the prison for one of Florida's highest-profile executions since that of serial killer Ted Bundy, who was put to death in 1989. About 100 death penalty opponents gathered in a circle, praying. Among an equal number of people who supported Rolling's execution was a woman holding a sign that read "Finally, kill the killer."
Bill Cervone, the state attorney for Gainesville, called Rolling "the face of evil in our community." "Even after his conviction ... and ever since he was imprisoned under sentence of death, he still cast a shadow on our community," Cervone said. "This execution has removed that shadow."
Rolling was the 63rd death row inmate put to death in the state since Florida resumed executions in 1979. (Additional reporting by Carlos Barria)
Killer of 5 Florida Students Is Executed
New York Times - Oct 26, 2006
GAINESVILLE, Fla., Oct. 25 — The serial killer who gruesomely murdered five college students here in 1990 was put to death on Wednesday by lethal injection, and relatives of his victims said afterward that they could finally feel the beginnings of relief.
Danny H. Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, about 30 miles northeast of Gainesville. Witnesses said he stared toward them and sang a hymn-type song just before the drugs were administered. “Maybe now that we don’t have this on us,” said Dianna Hoyt, the stepmother of one victim, “we can try and relax and live with the memories we have of our children and be at peace.”
Mr. Rolling was 36 when he arrived in Gainesville shortly before the fall semester began at the University of Florida, a drifter with a criminal past who pitched a tent in some woods near campus. He followed two freshman roommates, Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17, to their off-campus apartment, raped Miss Powell, repeatedly stabbed both women with a hunting knife and mutilated their bodies.
The police discovered them on Aug. 26, after Miss Powell’s parents reported that their daughter was not answering her door or phone. Later that night, the police found Christa Hoyt, 18, dead in her off-campus duplex. Mr. Rolling had raped and stabbed her, severed her head and placed it on a shelf.
The next day, Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada, both 23, were discovered stabbed to death in their apartment, not far from where the other killings took place. Mr. Rolling attacked Mr. Taboada, a former high school football player, as he slept, then killed Miss Paules. All of the victims were University of Florida students except for Miss Hoyt, who was attending a nearby community college.
Gainesville, a small city of pretty homes and live oaks, was crippled with dread. The campus shut down for a week and many of the 34,000 students scrambled home, some never to return. Others bought baseball bats and Mace, put triple locks on their doors or slept in shifts. Helicopters with searchlights soared over the city by night.
Sorority houses hired full-time security guards, gun sales soared and some townspeople never left their doors unlocked again. “There aren’t words to explain the fear,” said Jane Hamby of Pomona Park, Fla., whose son was attending the university at the time and who traveled to the prison for the execution, standing in a field across the road. “We didn’t know what his next move would be, but the ones of us who could get to our children got them out of Gainesville.”
A long investigation ensued, with 6,500 leads and 1,500 pieces of evidence. At first, the police focused on a mentally ill student who had been evicted from the apartment complex where Miss Paules and Mr. Taboada lived. But in January 1991, the police discovered Mr. Rolling in a county jail south of Gainesville, awaiting trial in a supermarket robbery. He initially denied committing the murders, but DNA tests ultimately showed he was responsible. He pleaded guilty on the eve of his trial in 1994, telling the judge, “There are some things that you just can’t run from.”
Mr. Rolling was also believed guilty of three slayings in his hometown, Shreveport, La., but was never tried for those crimes. He attributed his behavior to abuse by his father, a police officer, and to an evil alter ego.
In prison, he drew disturbing pictures and wrote a graphic book, “The Making of a Serial Killer,” with a woman who was his fiancée for a time. For his last meal, he asked for lobster tail and butterfly shrimp, prison officials said.
Across the road from the prison, dozens of onlookers gathered into groups for and against the death penalty. It was perhaps the largest turnout for an execution here since that of Ted Bundy, who was put to death at Florida State Prison in 1989 after being suspected of murdering more than 30 young women across the nation. Two University of Florida students who had driven up from Gainesville said they were generally against the death penalty, but not in Mr. Rolling’s case.
They were only 6 when the murders happened, they said, but read all about them on the Internet after enrolling at the university. “We feel connected to these murders,” said Allison Kirkpatrick, 22, a senior. “It was a random year, it was random people, but it could have been our year, it could have been us.” A wall near campus is painted with the names of the victims, hearts and “Remember 1990.”
Mr. Rolling was the third death row inmate executed here in recent weeks, and like the others he had filed a late appeal claiming that the lethal injection procedure was so painful as to be unconstitutional. But Bill Cervone, the state attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit and a witness to the execution, said Mr. Rolling’s death did not seem punishing enough. “To watch his death in such an antiseptic and clinical environment convinces me that the punishment does not fit that crime,” Mr. Cervone said. “We are, however, a society of laws, and the law governed what we carried out this evening.”
Laurie Lahey, the sister of Tracy Paules, said she had been reluctant to witness Mr. Rolling’s death but felt exhilarated afterward. “Once everything quiets down, I’ll think about Tracy and I’ll be sad,” she said. “But right now, he’s gone. He’s gone.”
Victims' families seek solace together
By Lise Fisher - Gainesville.com
Oct 26, 2006
Family members of the five murdered Gainesville students from 1990 gather to speak to the media on Wednesday after Danny Rolling's execution. As they had so often over the past 16 years, relatives of Danny Rolling's victims sought out each other for comfort and support before Wednesday's execution. More than 60 family members met for lunch at the Best Western Gateway Grand, 4200 NW 97th Blvd., in Gainesville.
Clutched in the hands of many as they left the building were white roses. The color of the flowers symbolized for the family members peace, hope and remembrance for the families. White ribbons also had been added to a living memorial of trees and plants on SW 34th Street, across from a wall where the names of the five Gainesville students Rolling killed are painted. "I think we all needed this, getting together for unity," said Dianna Hoyt, the stepmother of slain Santa Fe Community College student Christa Hoyt. Attached to her shirt was a pin bearing her stepdaughter's photo.
Relatives also met with investigators and others who had worked on the case to catch their loved one's killer. "I saw our pain reflected in their eyes," said Mario Taboada, the brother of one of the five college students killed in Gainesville, Manuel "Manny" Taboada, 23, of Carol City.
Mario Taboada, who has long been a spokesman for his family, chose not to witness Rolling's execution. "I felt nothing good would come from witnessing this," he said. He didn't want his memories of his brother associated with Rolling's death and said the convicted killer could say nothing he wanted to hear whether it was cynical, sarcastic or remorseful.
The families left the hotel at about 3 p.m. Many family members piled two vans. Others trailed in their cars. The convoy of about 10 vehicles, led by a police escort, headed west on NW 39th Avenue toward Florida State Prison.
Dianna Hoyt said the families were grateful for the help in getting to the prison and many didn't want to worry about other details except dealing with the execution. "I think it's going to be a very hard ride," she said.
Rolling may have shed light on 1989 slayings
By Lise Fisher - Gainesville.com
Oct 27, 2006
Serial killer Danny Rolling's 11th-hour meeting with a spiritual adviser may reveal details about the investigation of a 1989 triple slaying in which he was a suspect but never convicted. Louisiana authorities announced late Thursday that the Rev. Mike Hudspeth had contacted prosecutors and that they planned to hold a news conference this morning.
Hudspeth was one of Rolling's last visitors Wednesday, hours before he was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. The pastor from Shreveport, La., Rolling's hometown, was one of 47 people to witness the execution. Details about the news conference weren't released.
But Rolling's appellate attorney, Baya Harrison, said he understood his client had wanted to clear the name of another man who had once been a suspect in the deaths of Julie Grissom, 24, her nephew Sean Grissom, 8, and her father Tom Grissom, 55, all of Shreveport. A Shreveport Police spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that Louisiana authorities were trying to contact relatives of the Grissoms before the news conference.
The three family members were found stabbed to death in their Shreveport home, almost a year before Rolling's deadly Gainesville crime spree in which five college students were killed in 1990. Similarities between the Louisiana case and the Florida murders helped lead investigators to Rolling, who had been in Shreveport and the Gainesville area when the crimes in both locations were committed.
Louisiana officers have since said Rolling is their only suspect in the case. Don Ashley, the lead investigator on the Shreveport case and now an investigator with the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office, said Rolling never officially confessed that he killed the Grissoms. But Louisiana officials had written communication from Rolling in which he referenced the case and provided details only the killer would know, he said.
A drifter and career criminal, Rolling later told other inmates and psychologists he had wanted to kill eight people for each year he had previously served in prison. Rolling, 52, wasn't charged with the Grissoms' deaths but an arrest warrant had been prepared in the case. However, Louisiana officials chose not to move forward.
The case against Rolling in Louisiana wasn't as strong as the one in Florida, and authorities were concerned that moving Rolling out of state would pose a possible security risk, Ashley said.
Minutes before his execution, Rolling sang a gospel hymn to a crowded room including relatives of his victims gathered to witness his death. He made no mention of the five slain students - Sonja Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach, Christina Powell, 17, of Jacksonville, Christa Hoyt, 18, of Archer, Manuel "Manny" Taboada, 23, of Carol City, and Tracy Paules, 23, of Miami - nor did he apologize for his terrifying crime spree. Parents and relatives of the five sat in the crowded witness gallery with reporters and watched Rolling's execution. Among them were three members of the Grissom family, including the mother and brother of Sean Grissom.
Rolling's failure to express sorrow for his heinous crimes left some surprised, angry and disappointed, including Harrison. "I was just shocked at the singing. There's got to be some dignity, some closure, some expression of remorse under these circumstances. These people deserved that," Harrison said.
Hudspeth, a pastor at Kings Temple United Pentecostal Church, could not be reached for comment Thursday. An autopsy was completed on Rolling's body, which was released from the Medical Examiner's Office in Gainesville, Larry Bedore, the office's director of operations, said Thursday morning. A final report likely won't be complete for several weeks.
Information about Rolling's funeral remained private Thursday, known only to relatives who asked an area funeral home not to disclose the details. Prison officials made arrangements to give Rolling's belongings to his brother, Kevin Rolling, one of the last people to visit with the Death Row inmate Wednesday.
Among Rolling's possessions were a 13-inch television, personal hygiene items, a few books and colored pencils he used to draw with along with his drawings, said Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.
16 years later, Rolling executed
By Ron Word - Bradenton Herald
Associated Press, Oct. 26, 2006
STARKE - Danny Harold Rolling, the state's most notorious serial killer since Ted Bundy, was executed Wednesday by lethal injection for the grisly hunting-knife slayings of five college students in 1990 that threw the University of Florida into a panic. Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. in the execution chamber at Florida State Prison.
Relatives of all five victims witnessed the execution, and dozens of death penalty supporters, opponents, curious onlookers and journalists gathered on the barren cow pasture across from the prison. When asked for a last statement, Rolling sang for two minutes what sounded like a hymn with the refrain "none greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee," witnesses and prison officials said. He appeared to continue singing after prison officials turned off the microphone, finally stopping just before he died.
Dianna Hoyt, stepmother of victim Christa Hoyt, said the execution marked "the final chapter of this book" that might now allow families to "live with the memories of our children." "This man brought this outcome to himself, and the law of the land carried through to show us justice," Mrs. Hoyt said. The mother of victim Tracy Paules, Ricky Paules, sat in the front row of the execution witness area and said Rolling looked directly at her at one point. Asked how she felt about the song, Paules said, "Hatred. I was mad all the way through it."
The U.S. Supreme Court had turned down his final appeal earlier Wednesday, a challenge to the constitutionality of the chemicals used in Florida's execution procedure that has failed before the court in other cases. Justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens voted to grant the stay of execution, the court said in a three-sentence order. The horror of Rolling's killings unfolded when police officers found the bodies of the victims over a three-day period in August 1990, one decapitated and posed, others mutilated and several sexually assaulted.
The spree touched off a massive manhunt, causing students to cower in fear and purchase weapons. Rolling was jailed for a supermarket robbery when investigators used DNA to link him to the killings months later. Rolling pleaded guilty to the slayings in 1994, shocking the courtroom on the first day of his trial. "There are some things you just can't run from, this being one of those," Rolling told Circuit Judge Stan R. Morris, who accepted the pleas, found him guilty and later sentenced him to death. He later told The Associated Press: "I do deserve to die, but do I want to die? No. I want to live. Life is difficult to give up."
Outside the prison Wednesday, death penalty opponents stood in a circle singing "Amazing Grace" after Rolling was pronounced dead, but others were there in support of the execution. "They're doing a good thing," said Randy Hicks, a 35-year-old Lake Butler truck driver and former prison guard who occasionally watched over Rolling. "This guy deserves it. It's very overdue."
Death penalty protesters, who were cordoned off in a separate area by police tape, said the execution only served to provide Rolling additional attention. "The state of Florida is giving this psychopathic killer just what he wanted," said Mark Elliott of Clearwater, spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
The victims' families ran an advertisement Thursday in The Gainesville Sun, thanking the community for its support: "We hope you will remember August 1990 and the years that followed without any sense of community shame for what has happened here. You turned a blemish into a rose."
Rolling was calm and cooperative ahead of the execution, Corrections Department spokesman Robby Cunningham said. He spent several hours with his brother Kevin, and his brother's pastor Jim Wallingworth, officials said. His last meal was lobster tail, butterfly shrimp, baked potato, strawberry cheesecake and sweet tea shortly before noon. "He enjoyed his last meal. He ate every bite," Cunningham said. The gathering outside the prison was reminiscent of the crowds that gathered for Bundy's execution on Jan. 24, 1989, in the state's old electric chair. Bundy was suspected in the deaths and disappearances of 36 women across the country.
That case was still fresh in the minds of many when Rolling's killings began the next year in roughly the same area as some of Bundy's. The bodies of UF students Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17, were found stabbed to death on a Sunday afternoon in 1990, in a town house just off the campus. Santa Fe Community College student Hoyt, 18, whose decapitated head was left on a bookshelf, was found the next morning in her isolated duplex; and Paules and Manny Taboada, both 23-year-old UF students, were discovered dead a day later at Gatorwood Apartments.
For months, a large task force of local, state and federal agents followed hundreds of leads and took blood samples from dozens of men. They did not know that Rolling was already behind bars in Marion County after robbing a grocery store. Then authorities in Rolling's hometown of Shreveport, La., investigating a triple slaying that they believe he committed, suggested to the Florida task force investigating the Gainesville slaying that they check out the drifter and ex-con. The DNA left at the crime scenes in Gainesville matched genetic material police recovered from Rolling during some dental work. He was never prosecuted for the Louisiana slayings.
Throughout the years, Rolling insisted he was not as atrocious as many thought. In a letter to the AP in 2002, Rolling wrote, "I assure you I am not a salivating ogre. Granted ... time's past; the dark era of long ago - Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde did strike up & down the corridors of insanety."
Rolling, who often drew dark and sexual pictures, claimed he had good and bad multiple personalities. He blamed the murders on abuse he suffered as a child from his police officer father and his treatment in prison. He said he killed one person for every year he was behind bars. He served a total of eight years in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi before the killings. In his trips through north central Florida courts, Rolling twice sang gospel songs when he was sentenced. A tape of his own songs was found by investigators at a campsite in Gainesville where he stayed while committing the killings.
Rolling was the 63rd inmate to be put to death since Florida resumed executions in 1979 and the third this year. He was the 259th since 1924, when the state took over the duty from individual counties.
Rolling Confessed to Shreveport Killings Before Execution
Rolling Executed: A Look Back to 1990
By Grayson Kamm - First Coast News
Oct 26, 2006
SHREVEPORT, LA -- Just hours before he was executed earlier this week, serial killer Danny Rolling confessed to three other killings in Louisiana. Rolling was put to death Wednesday night for the murders of five students in Gainesville, Florida in a 1990 terror rampage.
In Danny Rolling's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, an attacker stabbed three members of the Grissom family to death in November, 1989. William "Tom" Grissom, 55, his daughter Julie, 24, and his 8-year-old grandson Sean were murdered after the killer slipped in through an unlocked door. It happened ten months before the Gainesville murders. Rolling has long been the prime suspect for police in the case. Friday, investigators announced that moments before his execution, Rolling confessed to killing the Grissoms. Police say Rolling slipped a note to his minister hours before he was led into the death chamber. The confession reads:
"In order to fulfill all things that no stone be unturned. Here by I make a formal written statement concerning the murders of Julie, Tom & SEAN GRISSOM in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana ... HAL CARTER, Julie Grissom's former fiancee is 100% INNOCENT -- TOTALLY PURE of that crime. I, and I alone am guilty. It was my hand that took those precious lights out of this ole dark world. With all my heart & soul would I could bring them back. Being a native son of Shreveport, I can only offer this confession of deep felt remorse over the loss of such fine -- outstanding souls. "Have wept an ocean of tears ... By which mournful doth float 'pon a sea of regret."
The message matched dusty old evidence still on the shelves of Shreveport detectives. Police there have long called Rolling their top suspect. "This was not news to us. We knew this a long time ago," said one of two retired Shreveport Police detectives who investigated the case. Right after three members of the Grissom family were found butchered in Shreveport, police focused on the woman's fiancé as their top suspect. It stayed that way until August, 1990 -- ten months later. That's when a string of five similar, vicious murders in Florida caught the attention of detectives in the Shreveport case. "At the time, DNA was in its infancy. We didn't have DNA to rely on. We had very little evidence -- scene evidence -- to help us to eliminate anybody," explained retired detective Don Ashley.
Florida police eventually linked Danny Rolling to the five murders in Gainesville. Then, a letter Rolling sent from jail tied him to the grisly Grissom murders. With that letter and more, Shreveport Police declared Rolling was their man. "I think for both of us that book had already been closed a while back as far as knowing he was the one responsible," Ashley said, speaking alongside his partner Friday.
But now -- finally and undeniably -- the Grissom family knows Rolling is the killer. Family members of the Grissoms were among the 47 people who watched Danny Rolling die Wednesday. Plans for them to attend were made long before the confession. After the execution, they spoke out. "We will never have closure on this, until we close our eyes -- all of us parents -- for the last time. But thank God we had great kids, we have great memories, and that's what keeps me going on," said Julie Grissom's mother, Joyce Burton. "I think it was too easy on him. But what can you do? He's gone now, and I'm thankful for that," added Zachary Thompson, the brother of Sean Grissom. Murdered at age eight, Sean would have turned 25 the day before Rolling's execution.
Some of Rolling's cellmates say he confessed to the Shreveport murders, and investigators did have other evidence linking him to the crimes. But the case against Rolling in Florida was much stronger, so Shreveport prosecutors decided not to take their case any further, out of fear it might foul things up in the Gainesville cases. Rolling told his minister he wanted to confess for two reasons. First, he wanted to clear the original suspect -- Julie Grissom's fiancé -- of any suspicion. Rolling said he also wanted to show his regret to the Grissom family.
In the early morning hours of August 24, 1990, Danny Rolling, armed with both an automatic pistol and a Marine Corps K-Bar knife, broke through the rear door of an apartment shared by college students Sonya Larson and Christina Powell. Upon entering the apartment, Rolling observed Christina Powell asleep on the downstairs couch. He stood over her briefly, but did not awaken her. Rolling then crept upstairs where he found Sonya Larson asleep in her bedroom.
After pausing to decide with which young woman he desired to have sexual relations, he attacked Sonya as she lay in her bed, stabbing her first in the upper chest area. He then placed a double strip of duct tape over her mouth to muffle her cries and continued to stab her as she unsuccessfully attempted to fend off his blows. During the attack, she was stabbed on her arms and received a slashing blow to her left thigh. Sonya maintained consciousness for less than a minute and died as a direct result of the stab wounds inflicted by Rolling.
After killing Sonya, Rolling returned to the downstairs of the apartment where Christina remained asleep. He pressed a double strip of tape over her mouth and taped her hands behind her back. Rolling cut off her clothing and undergarments with the K-Bar knife and sexually battered Christina, threatening her with the knife. Thereafter, Rolling forced her to lie facedown on the floor near the couch and stabbed her five times in the back, causing her death. Rolling posed the bodies of the victims and left the apartment. Sonya's body was found on her bed, posed with her arms above her head. Their bodies were mutilated.
Approximately forty-two hours later, during the evening hours of Saturday, August 25, Rolling broke into the apartment of college student Christa Hoyt, located about two miles away from the first crime scene, by prying open the sliding glass door with a screwdriver. Armed with the same automatic pistol and K-Bar knife, Rolling waited in the living room for the arrival of Christa a young woman into whose bedroom he had peeked a few days earlier. When Christa eventually returned home at about 11 a.m., Rolling surprised her from behind, placing her in a choke-hold and subduing her after a brief struggle. He taped her mouth and her hands and then led her into her bedroom where, after cutting and tearing off her clothing and undergarments, he forced her onto her bed, threatened her with his knife, and sexually battered her.
Rolling subsequently turned Christa facedown in her bed and stabbed her through the back, rupturing her aorta and killing her. Just as he had done with his first two victims, Rolling posed the body of his third victim and left the apartment. Christa's lifeless head was found sitting on a bookshelf in the bedroom, and her body was propped, sitting up on her bed and bent over at the waist. Rolling had sliced off her nipples and left them on the bed next to her, and police discovered that her torso was sliced open, from her chest to her pubic bone.
A little over a day later, at approximately 3 a.m. on August 27, Rolling entered a third apartment, occupied by roommates and college students Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada. Again, Rolling broke into the apartment by prying open the double-glass sliding door with the same screwdriver he used to enter Christa's apartment. Armed with the same pistol and knife, Rolling crept into one of the bedrooms where he found Manny Taboada asleep. Rolling attacked Manny, stabbing him in the solar plexus and penetrating his thoracic vertebra. Manny was awakened by the blow and struggled to fight off his assailant. Rolling repeatedly stabbed him on the arms, hands, chest, legs and face and eventually killed him. Hearing the commotion caused by the struggle, Tracy Paules approached Manny's bedroom and, catching a glimpse of Rolling, fled to her room where she attempted to lock her door. Rolling, who was covered with Manny's blood, followed Tracy and broke through her bedroom door. Rolling subdued her, taped her mouth and her hands, and cut or tore off her t-shirt. He sexually battered her and threatened her with his knife before turning her over on the bed and killing her with three stabbing blows to her back. Finally, Rolling cleaned and posed the body of Tracy Paules and left the apartment.
A friend of Manny's had gone to the apartment to check on them after another mutual friend expressed concerns about not being able to reach Manny for a couple of days. The maintenance man from the apartment complex was called and opened the door with a master key. They immediately saw Tracy's naked and bloody body in the hallway and there was a dark bag on the floor near her.
The maintenance man slammed the door shut and locked it, then left and called police. They arrived within five minutes, and when they reopened the apartment, the door was unlocked and the bag was gone. Tracy's body had been placed on a towel and police surmised that Rolling was interrupted before he could mutilate her body.
Rolling had a series of prior violent felonies; to-wit: a 1976 Mississippi conviction for armed robbery; a 1979 Georgia conviction for two counts of armed robbery; a 1980 Alabama conviction for robbery; a 1991 Hillsborough County, Florida, conviction for three counts of attempted robbery with a firearm and two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and a 1992 federal conviction for armed bank robbery.
Rolling was arrested after robbing a grocery store and police from his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana had contacted the Gainesville police task force and described similarities between the murders in Florida and a triple homicide in Louisiana in November 1991.
In November 1989, Tom Grissom, his daughter Julie, and her 8-year-old son Sean were stabbed to death. Julie's body was found bound and mutilated, covered with bite marks and posed on her bed in a sexual depiction. In both states, the killer had used solvents to clean the victims' bodies in an attempt to eliminate DNA clues; duct tape was used to bind victims; the knife used in both cases was the same type and in both cases, victims' were left displayed in grotesque poses, for maximum shock effect. DNA matched Rolling to three of the crime scenes and items found at a campsite in the woods where Rolling had been living were stained with Manny Taboada's blood. Eventually, Rolling confessed to the Gainesville murders and pled guilty at trial. He also confessed to murdering the Grissom family.
Danny Rolling, FL, October 25
Do Not Execute Danny Rolling
Danny Rolling is set to be executed by the state of Florida on Oct. 25. In late August 1990, Rolling went on a killing spree in Gainesville. Rolling broke into three apartments in the area belonging to five college students, whom he went on to assault and kill. The victims were Christina Powell, Sonja Larson, Christa Hoyt, Manuel Tobada and Tracy Paules.
While these crimes are heinous and inexcusable, the death penalty is not the right choice for Danny Rolling. Rolling grew up in a dysfunctional household with an abusive father. Furthermore, he suffered from emotional and psychological problems, as noted in one appellate judge’s opinion of his sentencing. Rolling pleaded guilty in his 1994 trial, where it was established that at the times of his crimes, he had the emotional maturity of a 15-year-old and that he suffered from extreme emotional disturbance.
During his trial, Rolling and his defense team tried to get a change of venue for the trial, which was denied. His story had been sensationalized by the media, so he could not have received a fair trial where jury members had no bias about the crimes. Furthermore, several pieces of evidence, including statements made without counsel present and items gathered without a warrant from Rolling’s place of residence were allowed in the trial.
Rolling expresses remorse for his crimes, as demonstrated by his confession and eventual guilty plea. His family has a history of mental illness, and his father’s abuse influenced his mental instability. Rolling’s emotional state, as well as several errors in his trial, prove that justice will not come to him in the form of capital punishment.
Please send appeals to Gov. Jeb Bush on behalf of Danny Rolling.
The Gainesville Ripper
"Grisly Gainesville," by Fiona Steel.
[Fiona Steel is a former marketing and business administrator whose writing talents include writing top-selling, marketing and training video scripts for international companies as well as writing training manuals on business skills and computer software. With a teaching and psychology background, Fiona developed an interest in crime writing from the perspective of the psychological aspects of the criminal mind. Her particular interest is the woman’s involvement in criminal matters, both victim and perpetrator. Fiona lives in Queensland, Australia with her writer husband and three children.]
On August 20 1990, the beautiful university town of Gainesville, Florida was ranked as being the thirteenth best place to live in the United States by Money magazine. By the end of the following week, American papers had renamed the town "Grisly Gainesville" after the bodies of five young students had been discovered brutally murdered and mutilated as they slept in their apartments.
One weekend of savagery by one man transformed the excitement and anticipation of the beginning of a new semester into terror as hundreds of students fled, not knowing if and when he would strike again.
One week later the media reported that the police had their number one suspect in custody, which launched an ordeal of nightmarish proportions for Edward Humphrey and his family. His was the classic example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Emotionally disturbed with a long history of strange behavior and violent emotional outbursts, he had seemed to police and the many witnesses to his antics, to be a prime suspect. With no evidence to hold him, the authorities somehow succeeded in stretching the limits of the law and had him locked away while they built their case around him. Before they could, the real killer was found.
Daniel Harold Rolling had moved on after the murders in Gainesville and was eventually arrested for armed robbery in Ocala, Florida. It would be some time before he would be linked to the murders, and it would be longer still before Edward Humphrey's name would be cleared.
Daniel Rolling's story tends to confirm the idea that the environment in which they spend their formative years encourages the development of serial killers. It would be impossible to know the account of Rolling's childhood and not feel compassion for the child who was abused, beaten and bullied by an over-bearing and disturbed father. It would be impossible not to feel anger toward his mother who time and time again refused to take any action to protect her own son.
But Daniel Rolling was not a child when he brutally murdered five young people at the threshold of their lives. Were the psychological scars from his childhood so deep that he was unable to control his malevolent impulses? Was the man who had come to be known as "The Gainesville Ripper" merely a victim of the brutality of his past? Should he have been treated with leniency or should he have felt the full weight of the law? These were the questions that a jury of twelve and one judge had to answer in 1994 when Danny Rolling was to be sentenced for five murders.
It was 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 26, 1990 when the Gainesville Police Department first became involved in the series of murders. Thirty-five year-old officer Ray Barber had been about to sign off at the end of his shift when the communications officer called him on his car radio. There was a complaint about loud music. Not unusual for this time of the year. The new semester was about to begin and the kids were celebrating, had been all weekend. The second message gave him no more concern than the first. It was a signal 64 — a call to assist a citizen. Both were routine, he would stop by on his way home.
When he drove into the courtyard at the Williamsburg Village Apartments, the maintenance man was there to meet him. As Barber got out of his car, the man told him that he had a couple of anxious parents wanting him to open their daughter's apartment as they couldn't get her to answer the door. Unwilling to take responsibility himself he had called the police.
Barber was initially unconcerned as he received dozens of calls about "missing" kids, who usually turned up unharmed with no idea of the anxiety they had caused. It was only when the parents, Frank and Patricia Powell, told him that their daughter Christina, 17, had known they were driving over from Jacksonville that morning and had not been seen by anyone since early Friday morning, although her car was still parked nearby, that Barber began to feel uneasy. This feeling increased when the Powells told him that Christina's roommate, Sonja Larson, also 17, had not called her mother the day before as arranged.
Desperate for Details
Within minutes back-up had arrived, as many as twenty law enforcement personnel, including Chief of Police Wayland Clifton. Following closely on their heels was the media. Lieutenant Sadie Darnell was given the task of being media spokesperson. All she could tell them was that two young women had been murdered after someone apparently forced their way through the door, some time between 11:30 p.m. August 23 and 4: 00 p.m. August 26.
Long before the first headlines could be printed, word of the murders had spread through the Williamsburg Village Apartments. Although the police had not publicly released their names, the crowds that had gathered were soon whispering that the girls were freshmen, one from Palm Beach and the other from Jacksonville. No one knew them. All wondered how this could have happened without anybody hearing anything.
One neighbor would recall that he had heard someone showering and playing loud music early on Friday morning, it was George Michael's 'Faith.' Then there had been a loud banging sound; he assumed that the girl's had been hanging pictures on the wall.
Spectators watched as a young woman walked from her car toward the building where the two victims had been found. She had been out of town over the weekend and had heard nothing of the day's events. When she approached the door to her building the uniformed officer on duty asked her name. When she told him it was Elsa Streppe, he called a plain-clothes officer over. Referring to a notebook, the two men talked in whispered tones.
Elsa was escorted from the scene and taken to the Alachua County Crisis Center. Once inside she was told that her roommates, Christina Powell and Sonja Larson had been murdered. She almost collapsed from the shock. It was some time before it struck her just how closely she had come to meeting the same fate as her two friends.
As police continued to work into the night, questioning other residents, checking for fingerprints and other clues, further details of the crimes began to circulate, one of the girls had been mutilated somehow, something to do with her breasts. The fear and panic began to spread as the story traveled beyond the apartment block to the rest of the community.
Before police had even finished packing up and sealing the area they were called to another site where they were awaited by deputies Keith O'Hara and Gail Barber from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Gail Barber had spent the earlier part of the evening with her husband, Ray Barber, after he had made the gruesome discovery of Christina and Sonja's bodies. She would have liked to stay with him longer but she was on the roster for the midnight shift. She hadn't been on long before dispatch had called to ask them to drop by Christa Leigh Hoyt's apartment, just in case. Eighteen-year-old Christa worked the midnight shift as a records clerk at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office. She hadn't arrived for work and wasn't answering her phone. It was 12:30 a.m.
Gail knew Christa well and was sure that there would be some logical explanation for why she hadn't called in. The chances of two people from the same family being present at two separate murder discoveries in such a short space of time would be just too coincidental.
When O'Hara and Barber knocked on Christa's front door and there was no answer, they were almost relieved. She's probably left for work already, they told themselves. Then they saw her car, an older model Nissan Sentra, parked nearby. They knocked again, and then tried the door. It was locked. Hearing the noise, manager Elbert Hoover came out to investigate. The three of them went out to the back of the apartment.
Hoover knew something was wrong the moment he saw that the gate had been damaged and the chain-link fence was down. As O'Hara and Barber went further into the backyard, they told Hoover to wait around the front for them. Once they established that there was no one in the yard, they tried the glass sliding door. It was locked from the inside.
They noticed that the bamboo shades over the door did not reach to the floor. They bent down on their hands and knees to peer under the curtain. Through the beam of the flashlight they could see what appeared to be a naked body seated on the edge of the bed. It was bent over at the waist with a small pool of blood at the feet, which were still clad in shoes and socks. They came to the shocking realization that the body didn't have a head.
The two officers ran back to their patrol car to notify the station. It was 1:00 a.m. Moments later the first of the investigating team had arrived. Barber and O'Hara quickly briefed Sergeant Baxter and Lieutenant Nobles, telling them that they had heard water running in the apartment. As there was a strong possibility that the killer was still inside, O'Hara and Barber were told to take up positions around the outside of the apartment, while Baxter and Nobles waited for more back-up to arrive. It was half an hour before they were ready to enter the building.
When they entered through the front door they moved slowly, ready for anything. The bathroom was first. They could hear the drip, drip of the shower but there was no one there. There were bloodstains on the floor of the shower. When they left the bathroom they saw Christa's lifeless head facing them, propped up on a bookshelf in the bedroom. In the bedroom, they saw the headless corpse of the once beautiful Christa, sitting at the end of the bed. On the bed next to her were her two nipples. Barely able to breathe, they checked under the bed and in the closets. Confident that the killer had long gone, the two officers made their way back outside.
As they walked out into the courtyard they saw that the Gainesville Police Chief, Wayland Clifton, had arrived from the Williamsburg Village Apartments, along with many of the other officers. Although they had no jurisdiction in this area, they needed to know for sure whether the murders were in any way linked.
With the preliminary examination completed it was time for the body to be moved. Alachua County's chief investigator gave the order. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw next. One of the officers let out a low growl when Christa was laid back. Apart from the breast mutilation, she had been carefully sliced from the breastbone to the pubic bone.
Task Force Formed
It was soon clear that the three murders were definitely linked. At both scenes, underwear were missing. A knife with a four-to-six inch blade had been used on all three girls, and the use of adhesive tape for restraint was evident, although it had been removed. At both scenes there were body parts missing.
As Sheriff Lu Hindery walked towards his car the crowd of reporters, which had gathered while he was inside Christa's apartment, met him. In answer to their barrage of questions, he told them some of the gruesome details, before getting into his car to drive back to the station. By the afternoon, the information available to the press was being strictly controlled. Already much of the most vital information was well known, and where facts were missing, fear and fertile imaginations had filled in the gaps.
The early stories in the local Gainesville Sun were gruesome even without embellishment. Newspapers were being sold as quickly as the shelves could be filled. Even without the headlines, the news was sweeping through the college community. The students, who could all identify with the victims, felt vulnerable.
The viciousness of the crimes and the idea of a knife-wielding killer lurking in their midst only added to their fear. Christa's murder meant that the killer may not have known his victims and they were chosen opportunistically. They didn't even attend the same school. Christina and Sonja were freshmen at the University of Florida, while Christa was a sophomore at Santa Fe Community College. Anyone could be next.
First thing that Monday morning, Sheriff Lu Hindery, of Alachua County Sheriff's Office, and Wayland Clifton, of Gainesville Police Department, conferred and set the wheels in motion to create a combined task force. It was to include top crime-scene technicians and investigators from both departments, along with representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol, and ten of the top criminal behavioral specialists from the FBI. The task force was to be headed by three men: Lieutenant R.B. Ward was appointed by the GPD; Captain Andy Hamilton represented the ACSO; and Special Agent J.O. Jackson represented the FDLE.
On Monday night, the first press conference was held. Police attempted to reassure the public and put to rest some of the more frightening rumors that had begun to circulate, but due to the necessity of keeping many of the crime-scene details under wraps, there was little they could say to re-assure the frightened community. The fact was that three young women had been brutally murdered inside their apartments, probably by the same killer, who was still out there somewhere. There was little that could be said to make the situation less frightening.
The Gainesville phone lines were jammed as students called home to reassure parents of their safety, and parents phoned their children just to hear the sound of their voices. Callers from all over the country called the GPD, wanting to know whether it was true that there was a serial killer on the loose.
Students, fearful of returning alone to their apartments, banded together, with as many as ten or twelve people staying together in the one apartment. No one walked alone at night, or during the day for that matter. Young women were wary of any young men they did not know, how could they be sure that the killer was not a fellow student. Nobody could be sure.
The panic and fear reached its zenith the next day, Tuesday, August 28, when two more bodies were found. This time one of them was male. Now it was not only the women in Gainesville who feared for their lives. Being male or having a male close by no longer offered anyone a sense of security.
Tracy & Manny
The victims were Tracy Inez Paules and Manuel R. Taboada, both 23 years old. Friends since high school, they decided to share the two bedroom ground-floor unit at Gatorwood Apartments when Manuel (Manny's) previous roommate had moved out. Manny, a six-foot-three-inch athlete, weighing over 200 pounds, seemed to Tracy's parents a good choice as a roommate. With Manny in residence, Tracy's parents would not have to worry so much about their daughter living off-campus. They were wrong.
It had been 7 o'clock on Tuesday morning when one of Manny's friends, Tommy Carrol, arrived at Gatorwood Apartments to check on Manny and Tracy at the request of a mutual friend who was living out of the area. Khris Pascarella had been trying to contact Manny by phone since Sunday and was concerned that they were still not answering. He called the manager and arranged for someone to meet Tommy to check the apartment. She sent Christopher Smith, her maintenance man.
When Tommy told Christopher that there had been no answer to his knocking, he took out his master key and opened the door. They didn't need to enter to see what had happened. Tracy's naked, bloodied body was lying in the hallway between the two bedrooms. Sitting on the floor above her head was a dark-colored bag. Christopher slammed the door shut and locked it. When he returned five minutes later with the police, the door was unlocked and the bag was gone.
Sergeant Alan Baxter and other investigators from the ACSO who had worked on the crime scene at Christa's apartment were present here as well. There were no mutilations this time; perhaps the killer had been interrupted before he could complete his sadistic plans. Tracy was found with a towel placed under her hips and her hair was wet. Manny had been found in his bed where his attack had begun and ended. From the wounds on his arms the police concluded that he had put up quite a struggle before his death.
With the discovery of the fourth and fifth bodies, Gainesville came under the spotlight of the national media. Soon comparisons were being made. The killer's penchant for young college students brought back memories of Ted Bundy, Florida's most notorious serial killer. Bundy had been sent to the electric chair only the year before, after he was convicted of a series of murders of young college students in the Tallahassee area during 1978.
One report highlighted the similarity between the Gainesville killings and the world's most infamous killer, "Jack the Ripper." Stories about "The Gainesville Ripper" quickly became the media's latest draw card, guaranteeing soaring sales records.
The police were soon inundated by calls, thousands of possible suspects were identified. Ex-boyfriends and husbands were named as strong candidates. Anyone who had behaved 'strangely' was likely to be reported. All of them had to be checked and crosschecked for any possible links to the killings. One name seemed to be coming up again and again. It looked like the police had their first real suspect in a strange young man by the name of Edward Lewis Humphrey.
A Red Herring
When Officer Lonnie Scott of GPD had told her superiors about her neighbor, Edward Humphrey, they had already had a number of similarly strange reports from the many people who had come into contact with him over the summer period.
The manager of Gatorwood Apartments, where Tracy and Manuel had been murdered, reported that Humphrey had been asked to leave after he fought with his roommates, who said he was weird and walked in his sleep. When the maintenance man and the manager had attempted to make him leave he had become violent and thrown a chair at them. He had also been trouble when he had lived in the opposite apartment block, going into people's apartments uninvited and, when they dared to lock him out, he would peep through the curtains to get their attention.
In early August, Edward was in trouble again. He was arrested in Ordway, Colorado for disorderly conduct. His car was confiscated and he was held in custody for 24 hours until his grandmother Elna Hlavaty came to rescue him. She returned him to Gainesville and found him an apartment.
The police were quickly able to gather many reports of Edward's violent behavior towards his grandmother as the pair moved around town in search of an apartment. The numerous other independent reports about Edward made to the police included harassment and arguments and one instance where he produced a penknife at a fraternity house when they tried to stop him from coming in.
Edward Humphrey was definitely a strange character who, police believed, could possibly be the killer. The investigation began to focus heavily on Edward as the prime suspect, beginning with their surveillance of Edward's every movement. As he drove back to his grandmother's home in Indialantic on August 28, police helicopters hovered overhead. On October 30 Edward gave the police an opportunity to place him in custody.
"Number One Suspect" in Custody
He had a violent argument with his grandmother that ended in him striking her. His mother called the police, who convinced Elna that she must sign a complaint charging aggravated assault. Humphrey was immediately arrested and taken to Regional Medical Center for treatment. FBI agents arrived soon after and their interrogations began. He was questioned extensively for twenty-four hours without an attorney. When the public defender assigned to Edward arrived, he was sent away.
The agents told him that he would not be needed as no arrest had been made in regard to the Gainesville killings, as there was no evidence. He was there only on the assault charges. Although Edward's grandmother dropped the charges against her grandson that night, he continued to be held.
The next morning the police reinstated the assault charges and Edward was sent to Brevard County Jail at Sharpes. Bail was set at $1 million, for a minor assault charge by a first time offender, and Edward awaited his trial, set for October. Almost as soon as his arrest was made, the media blitz against Edward began. A mugshot of Edward was printed and all reports implied that he was the Gainesville killer.
When police reported that Humphrey was a good suspect, the media headlines declared him as "Number One Suspect." The police did nothing to set the record straight with the media despite the fact that they still had as many as a dozen other suspects. Interestingly, the only name that was released to the media was Edward Humphrey.
With no evidence to link Humphrey to the Gainesville killings, it took the police four days to convince a judge to grant a warrant to search Humphrey's person, apartment and car. They also wanted to search the Hlavaty house as Humphrey may have left some clues there. The warrant finally granted, they spent several hours at Humphrey's apartment where nothing was found which they could use as evidence.
They had the same result at Elna Hlavaty's home where police had descended at 9:00 a.m. on the same day. Elna had not been home when they arrived so a locksmith was called and the warrant read to an empty house. The elderly woman was so distressed when she arrived home to find police ransacking her house that an ambulance was called.
Despite the complete lack of evidence to link Edward to the killings, the police continued to view him as their prime suspect. When there were no more murders after his arrest they became more convinced, along with the media. The public perception that the police had their killer quickly spread. Students who had fled in terror, returned and gradually people stopped traveling and living in large groups. Interest in the murders began to wane and on 12 September 1990 the story did not appear on the front page for the first time since the murders were first announced.
In October, Edward Humphrey was sent to trial on the assault charges. Although his grandmother testified that Edward had not struck her, Edward was sentenced to 22 months in Chattahoochie State Hospital where most of the inmates were convicted murderers. He was not released until September 18, 1991 and was still considered a suspect until after Danny Rolling, the real killer, was sentenced in 1994. Up until this time his name was never officially cleared, nor did he receive any public apology for the pain and anguish caused to him and his family.
the police began their surveillance of Edward Humphrey on August 28, 1990, the real killer, Daniel Harold Rolling, narrowly escaped arrest on bank robbery charges. He had been with Tony Danzy near the woods on Archer Road, near where Christa Hoyt had been murdered. Rolling had made a campsite on the afternoon of the first murders. He had been on the way back to the campsite with Danzy, a new friend who supplied him with drugs, when the police had noticed them. Danzy stopped to wait for the police but Rolling ran. As the two officers pursued Rolling they came upon his campsite. Here they found a number of items which would later link Rolling to the five murders, but at this time the only item that caught the attention of police was a bag of cash covered in pink dye.
The perpetrator of the robbery of the First Union National Bank on the previous day had been identified. Unfortunately he was not suspected as the "Gainesville Ripper" and his belongings were stored away in case they caught him later.
When Danzy and Rolling met the next day, Danzy threatened to call the police. Rolling was on the run again and made plans to leave the area. With no car and no money he set about acquiring them the only way he knew how. He burgled the apartment of student Christopher Osborne where he stole the keys to Christopher's 1978 Buick Regal and drove toward Tampa.
There he burgled several houses but failed to achieve anything except to leave a trail of evidence, including fingerprints and hair, to help the authorities convict him. He was almost caught as he departed from a convenience store robbery, but managed to run into the woods, once again eluding capture, but his luck was about to run out.
Rolling stole another car and headed for Ocala where he attempted a daring robbery of a Winn Dixie supermarket during the peak of Saturday afternoon crowds on September 8, 1990. While he forced the manager at gunpoint to empty the office safe, the store's bookkeeper was on her way back to work. She phoned the police when she learned at the entrance to the supermarket that they were being robbed. The police were well on their way by the time Rolling left, heading to his get-away car.
The store manager, Randy Wilson, had followed Rolling as he left the shopping center and was able to tell the police exactly where he was. As Rolling backed out of the parking area, the police were already in pursuit and a high-speed chase began. When Rolling crashed his car he fled on foot into a nearby office but as he left through a rear door the police were waiting for him. He made one last attempt to escape their clutches but it ended in failure and he was arrested.
Three days after Rolling's arrest on September 11, 1990, the "Gainesville Ripper" story was dropped from the front page for the first time. The community of Gainesville, no longer under threat, wanted to forget the horror of that gruesome week of murder.
On October 10, the day Edward Humphrey was convicted of the assault charges against his grandmother, Rolling sent his mother a Christmas card from the Marion County Jail, where he was being held, awaiting an indictment for the Winn Dixie robbery and the many burglaries he had committed prior to his arrest.
From the moment of his arrest, Rolling had passively accepted his fate and been totally co-operative with police and prison authorities, but, on 1 January 1991, he revealed another side to his personality. In a fit of anger he ripped a toilet from its mounting and threw it across the day-room. Believing that there was a lot more to Danny Rolling than initially thought, his defense attorney, Victoria Lisarralde, asked for psychological tests and moved to withdraw the guilty plea on Rolling's armed robbery charges.
The Killer Confesses
Throughout the time prior to his trial Rolling had trouble keeping his mouth shut and many inmates made contact with the investigating team to relate stories of Rolling's "confessions," which fluctuated between penitent admissions of sin to bragging, depending on his mood. He formed a friendship with inmate Bobby Lewis, known as the only man to have escaped from Florida's death row.
Rolling knew that escape was the only way he would ever get out of prison. Even if he wasn't convicted for the Gainesville murders, Rolling knew that Lewis could prove a helpful friend. In time Rolling told Lewis all about the murders in explicit detail. He admitted that he had decided to kill while he was in prison during the eighties, long before he came to Gainesville.
He acknowledged that he had a bad side, which he couldn't always control but blamed his father's abuse and neglect, sexual abuse he experienced in prison and his ex-wife for this. Together Rolling and Lewis planned for Rolling to fake suicide in order to stay in the same ward, and then later escape.
His escape never took place and on January 31, 1993, Rolling informed the Gainesville investigators that he wished to confess, through Bobby Lewis. During the three-hour confession, Rolling did not answer any of the investigators questions directly but confirmed the answers given by Lewis on his behalf. Through Lewis, Rolling effectively confessed to planning and committing the five murders in Gainesville.
He also told them that he had originally planned to kill eight people while in prison and that he would "...clear up the Shreveport homicides... after the Gainesville murders [trial]..." Rolling also shifted all responsibility for the murders onto an evil side of his personality that he called "Gemini."
While happy with Rolling's confession, the investigators didn't buy the "evil Gemini" aspect of his story, as they knew from their investigations that Rolling had watched the movie Exorcist Part III during the week of the Gainesville murders. The killer in this movie, known as Gemini, had decapitated and disemboweled a female victim. An attempt to recover the murder weapon in the location that Rolling had described, through Lewis, during his confession was unsuccessful.
Soon after the confession Lewis was moved from the ward, causing Rolling to feel betrayed by Lewis. In Rusty Binstead, Rolling found a new confidante but this time instead of only telling Binstead the details he wrote them down in a letter. He gave the original to Binstead with instructions to take a copy and then return it to him. Instead, when Binstead returned to his cell he told the man in the next cell to wait five minutes then call out "Shakedown." When he did, Binstead flushed his toilet to make Rolling believe that he had flushed the letter down the toilet.
Three weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin, Rolling asked for a meeting with his attorney, Public Defender C. Richard Parker. During this meeting Rolling expressed his desire to plead guilty. Parker attempted to convince his client that although there was a great deal of primary evidence against him and his videotaped confession had damaged his case, there was still a strong case for mitigating factors against a death sentence.
If Rolling would maintain his not-guilty plea Parker would attempt to use Rolling's life story of abuse and the many psychiatric evaluations which established Rolling's mental illness. By pleading guilty, Parker warned, the likelihood of receiving a death sentence was much stronger, and it would leave no opportunity to have a conviction overturned in an appeal. He would only be able to appeal the sentence.
Despite the warnings, Rolling was determined to go ahead with the change, admitting that much of the reason was that he didn't want the crime scene photographs to be shown. Parker asked Rolling to take the three weeks before the trial date to think about it.
The week before the trial, Rolling signed a three-page plea-form at the Florida State Prison, which effectively made his new guilty plea official. Just in case, Parker met with Judge Stanley R. Morris to inform him of his client's plea and request that it not be announced until February 15th when jury selection began. The only person to be informed of Rolling's decision was prosecutor Rod Smith.
A Plea of "Guilty"
In the courtroom on February 15 there were very few members of the public or the media. The families of the victims were all present but no one from Rolling's family was there; his mother, suffering from cancer, was too ill to attend. The only person present to support him was his fiancée, Sondra London. None were expecting this stage of the proceedings to be of any great moment and the court settled in quickly.
Rolling's announcement that he would be pleading guilty was received with shocked silence in the courtroom, while outside the reaction was explosive as the media converged upon the courthouse to get the latest word as the courtroom emptied. Daniel Rolling had taken sole responsibility for the murders of the five young students, all that needed to be determined by the jury, that was finally selected nine days later, was whether he would receive the death penalty or not.
It was the responsibility of the jury to weigh in the balance the aggravating factors presented by the prosecution and the mitigating circumstances presented by the defense. According to Florida law there were 11 possible aggravating circumstances, at least one of these needed to be proved by the prosecution for the jury to determine that the death penalty was warranted.
The defense had no restrictions on what evidence it could use as mitigating factors, its success would be determined by whether the jury believed that they were strong enough circumstances to outweigh the prosecution's case. Only seven of the twelve jurors needed to be in agreement to make a recommendation to the court and it was then up to the judge whether or not he would accept it.
Opening arguments began on Tuesday March 7, 1994. The prosecution claimed that it would be successful in proving 5 of the 11 possible aggravating circumstances laid down by the law: The crimes were cold-blooded and premeditated The crimes were committed during sexual battery The crimes were particularly heinous, atrocious and cruel The offender had a prior history of felony convictions The crimes were committed for the purpose of escaping detection or avoiding arrests, particularly in the cases of Sonya Larson and Manuel Taboada.
The defense would attempt to prove the following mitigating circumstances: The perpetrator suffered mental illness at the time of the crimes The crimes were committed under extreme stress The perpetrator grew up in an abusive household There was a history of drug and alcohol abuse The perpetrator showed remorse.
If Rolling had hoped that a guilty plea would save him from the shame of having the details of his crimes made public he was sorely disappointed. State Attorney Rod Smith had no intention of leaving out any of the details of Rolling's crimes as he presented his death penalty case.
One by one he brought forward the state's evidence against Rolling: the DNA matches with semen found at three of the sites; items found at Rolling's campsite including the screwdriver, duct tape and a pair of black pants stained with Manuel Taboada's blood; a handwriting match from a note found at one of the scenes; the many details of the murders and the crime scenes told to inmates by Rolling; proof of Rolling's purchase of a Ka-Bar knife matching the one that was used in the murders; the handwritten confession given to Rusty Binstead by Rolling and finally the videotaped confession Rolling made to investigators through Bobby Lewis.
Smith then presented the long list of Rolling's violent crimes, which alone constituted a strong mitigating factor. In total Rolling was held responsible for eight counts of armed robbery and one count of attempted robbery, one count of armed bank robbery and two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer, committed over four states.
To further confirm in the jury's mind that Daniel Rolling was a violent and sadistic killer who knew exactly what he was doing, Smith described in detail how Rolling tortured his victims. How he had told them everything he planned to do to them before he killed them, adding to the horror and fear they were already experiencing before they died. Proving that these crimes were committed during sexual battery and were particularly heinous and cruel.
Smith told the jury that the evidence he had presented established beyond every reasonable doubt that Daniel Harold Rolling was guilty of all of the crimes alleged in the indictment and only the death sentence could respond to the horror Rolling had created. The difficult task of proving to the jury that, despite the nature of his crimes, Daniel Rolling did not deserve to die, was given to John J. Kearns, recognized in 1986 as the state's outstanding public defender.
To support their case, that Daniel Rolling, a victim of constant physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father during his childhood, was mentally ill and not accountable for his actions, the defense team presented numerous relatives and friends and a barrage of psychiatrists who had spent a total of fifty hours evaluating Rolling.
The first witnesses, neighbors and family members who had been witness to Rolling's formative years, laid the foundation for the defense case but the videotaped testimony of Rolling's mother, Claudia Rolling, proved to be the most revealing and humanizing. Talking to both John Kearns, for the defense, and Jim Nilon, for the prosecution, Claudia Rolling told the story of her family and her eldest son's life.
The Making of a Monster
She had married James Rolling in 1953 when she was nineteen in Georgia. She had become pregnant with Daniel only two weeks later, much to James' disgust. During the course of her pregnancy, James had struck her a number of times. She left him for the first time while she was still pregnant, moving to her parents' home in Shreveport but he followed her there and they continued the marriage.
After Daniel was born on May 26, 1954, James' attitude toward fatherhood did not improve. Even when Daniel was tiny, James would yell at him. The first incident of physical abuse occurred when Daniel was crawling age. Instead of crawling he would pull himself along on his bottom with one leg. His father was infuriated by this behavior and one day he grabbed Daniel by his foot and shoved him along the hallway, bouncing him as he went.
When Daniel was four and his brother Kevin was three, Claudia again left James and moved to Columbus, Georgia. She and James had been arguing because James kept turning the television off as Claudia was watching it.
The argument had ended when James punched her, cutting her lip. They remained separated for six months until Claudia succumbed to James's pleadings and promises and they got back together again. They lived in Columbus for four years until Claudia again left James because of his violent behavior. He was soon back again and they moved to Shreveport.
Claudia described the relationship between James and his two young sons and her feeble attempts to protect them. She would try to ensure that the boys had already had their dinner before James came home, as he would constantly abuse them for imagined transgressions — they didn't sit properly, or didn't hold their cutlery properly, he even insisted that they breathe a certain way.
The children would come to the table in fear if James was at home. Apart from verbal abuse, James would physically punish his children. Sometimes he would punish them with a belt and other times he would make a fist and grind his knuckle into the tops of their heads. Whatever the punishment, he would insist that they not cry out, under threat of further punishment.
The abuse was directed mostly at Daniel and was a constant part of his life, with the verbal abuse occurring daily and the "whippings" at least once or twice a week. As the boys grew, they became more aware of their father's violence toward Claudia but their own fear of their father prevented them from helping. They would beg Claudia to leave James and never return, but she didn't. The boys were not allowed birthday parties and Christmas was always spoiled by James's abusive behavior.
One Christmas, when Daniel was in third grade, the violence was particularly bad so Claudia packed up her boys and the Christmas tree into the car and left, but of course she did not stay away long. Soon after Claudia had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for some time.
During that year Daniel became very ill and was away from school a great deal, his teacher told Claudia that it would be best for the child if he repeated the year. She also recommended that Danny receive counseling for his nervousness and personality problems. He never received that counseling. Instead his father berated him for his failure.
Claudia's testimony had given the jury much to consider. Was Daniel Rolling's childhood trauma enough to absolve him of full responsibility for his later actions? Their dilemma was not helped much by the testimony of three psychiatrists. All agreed that, as a result of his father's abuse and his mother's failure to protect him from it, Daniel Rolling had a severe personality disorder and functioned at the maturity level of a fifteen-year-old, but, under cross-examination conceded that he did not suffer from multiple-personalities and was aware of the criminality of his actions during and after the murders. It would take the jury almost two days to resolve these issues and make a determination. The jury had decided that Daniel Rolling should receive the death penalty on all five counts.
It was now up to the judge to review the aggravating and mitigating factors and make an independent judgment, taking the jury's recommendation fully into account. He would announce his final judgment on April 20, 1994 after giving all parties concerned, the victims' families, Rolling's family and Danny Rolling himself, an opportunity to state their case to him personally.
In the meantime on March 30 the Shreveport Police cited James Rolling for the "simple battery" of his wife during a domestic dispute. On the same day, Rolling confessed to the triple murder of the Grissom family in Shreveport.
The day of sentencing finally arrived, three and a half years after the murders were committed. Judge Morris, aware that any grounds for appealing the sentence could come from what he said, measured his words carefully. One by one he reviewed all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that had been presented during the trial.
He noted all aspects of Rolling's history and the findings of all of the doctors, disputing none. He agreed that Rolling functioned at a considerably immature level and that his personality disorder did impair his ability to conform to the requirements of the law, but, it was not at a level which could be considered by the law as being substantial.
He found that Rolling's disorder was a non-statutory mitigating factor and gave it only moderate weight. Judge Morris found, as did the jury, that the aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating and ordered that Daniel Harold Rolling be sentenced to death for all five victims.
Daniel "Danny" Harold Rolling
"The Gainesville Ripper", was a confessed and convicted serial killer. After confessing to the murder and mutilation of five students in Gainesville, Floridaa>, in August 1990, he was ultimately executed. He also confessed to raping several of his victims, had admitted to an additional 1989 triple homicide in Shreveport, Louisiana. and had admitted that he attempted to murder his father in May 1990. In all, Rolling confessed to killing 8 people, though there may have been more.
Danny Rolling was born to James and Claudia Rolling. His father was abusive to both him and his mother, and later his brother, Kevin. Claudia Rolling made repeated attempts to leave her husband, but always returned. Rolling's father was a police officer. After several incarcerations as a teen and young adult for a string of robberies in Georgia, Rolling had trouble trying to assimilate into society and hold down a steady job. Finally, after years of abuse, Rolling attempted to kill his father during an argument with the elder Rolling.
"The Gainesville Ripper"
He later fled to the state of Florida where he began his burglary and robbery spree, which culminated in the murders of five people in Gainesville. His signature was to arrange the bodies in such a way as to highlight the carnage in the rooms — this even included setting up several mirrors and decapitating and/or posing his victims. Although law enforcement authorities initially had very few leads and the investigation dragged on for years, Rolling was eventually charged with several counts of murder, and Alachua County State Attorney Rod Smith oversaw the prosecution. In a surprise move, Rolling pleaded guilty in court, nearly four years after the murders occurred. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to the death penalty on each count.
A second man, Edward Humphrey of Indialantic, Florida, was considered an initial suspect in the Gainesville murders; authorities cleared him of all charges after Rolling's arrest. Police also considered Brandon Curry. Subsequently, Rollings confessed via letter from his spiritual advisor to the Shreveport, Louisiana police, to the killings of 55-year-old William T. Grissom, his 24-year-old daughter Julie and 8-year-old grandson Sean as they got ready for dinner on November 4, 1989, in Grissom's home. Shreveport police alerted Gainesville police to the similarity of the murder scenes, which is what prompted Gainesville Police's interest in Rollings. Shreveport police, though holding an open warrant for his arrest, never pursued extradition, supposing Florida would sentence him to death easier than Louisiana would.
Rolling aided the writing career of Sondra London, who met him in prison while working with Gerard John Schaefer and other serial killers. Rolling and the Gainesville murders are the subject of the book Beyond Murder by John Philpin and John Donnelly. The murders have been suggested to have been the inspiration for the original screenplay for 1996 film Scream, though the similarities may merely be coincidental. Rolling was the subject of an episode of "Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman", a Court TV show. During Rolling's trial, Court TV ran an interview with his mother from her home, during which someone shouting and complaining (presumably Rolling's father) off-camera can be heard. American Justice with Bill Kurtis did an episode on him.
As a result of his murder convictions, Rolling was executed by lethal injection on October 25, 2006 and pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. EDT after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Rolling's last-ditch appeal. He showed no remorse and refused to make any comments or offer any apology to the relatives of his victims, several of whom were present at his execution as witnesses. Instead he chose to sing a song. His last meal consisted of lobster tail, butterfly shrimp, baked potato, strawberry cheesecake and sweet tea. Shortly before his execution, Rolling confessed to three other murders.
Florida has executed 59 inmates since 1979
South Florida Sun Sentinel
The Associated Press, April 5 2005
Following is a list of 59 inmates executed since Florida resumed executions in 1979:
1. John Spenkelink, 30, executed May 25, 1979, for the murder of traveling companion Joe Szymankiewicz in a Tallahassee hotel room.
2. Robert Sullivan, 36, died in the electric chair Nov. 30, 1983, for the April 9, 1973, shotgun slaying of Homestead hotel-restaurant assistant manager Donald Schmidt.
3. Anthony Antone, 66, executed Jan. 26, 1984, for masterminding the Oct. 23, 1975, contract killing of Tampa private detective Richard Cloud.
4. Arthur F. Goode III, 30, executed April 5, 1984, for killing 9-year-old Jason Verdow of Cape Coral March 5, 1976.
5. James Adams, 47, died in the electric chair on May 10, 1984, for beating Fort Pierce millionaire rancher Edgar Brown to death with a fire poker during a 1973 robbery attempt.
6. Carl Shriner, 30, executed June 20, 1984, for killing 32-year-old Gainesville convenience-store clerk Judith Ann Carter, who was shot five times.
7. David L. Washington, 34, executed July 13, 1984, for the murders of three Dade County residents _ Daniel Pridgen, Katrina Birk and University of Miami student Frank Meli _ during a 10-day span in 1976.
8. Ernest John Dobbert Jr., 46, executed Sept. 7, 1984, for the 1971 killing of his 9-year-old daughter Kelly Ann in Jacksonville..
9. James Dupree Henry, 34, executed Sept. 20, 1984, for the March 23, 1974, murder of 81-year-old Orlando civil rights leader Zellie L. Riley.
10. Timothy Palmes, 37, executed in November 1984 for the Oct. 19, 1976, stabbing death of Jacksonville furniture store owner James N. Stone. He was a co-defendant with Ronald John Michael Straight, executed May 20, 1986.
11. James David Raulerson, 33, executed Jan. 30, 1985, for gunning down Jacksonville police Officer Michael Stewart on April 27, 1975.
12. Johnny Paul Witt, 42, executed March 6, 1985, for killing, sexually abusing and mutilating Jonathan Mark Kushner, the 11-year-old son of a University of South Florida professor, Oct. 28, 1973.
13. Marvin Francois, 39, executed May 29, 1985, for shooting six people July 27, 1977, in the robbery of a ``drug house'' in the Miami suburb of Carol City. He was a co-defendant with Beauford White, executed Aug. 28, 1987.
14. Daniel Morris Thomas, 37, executed April 15, 1986, for shooting University of Florida associate professor Charles Anderson, raping the man's wife as he lay dying, then shooting the family dog on New Year's Day 1976.
15. David Livingston Funchess, 39, executed April 22, 1986, for the Dec. 16, 1974, stabbing deaths of 53-year-old Anna Waldrop and 56-year-old Clayton Ragan during a holdup in a Jacksonville lounge.
16. Ronald John Michael Straight, 42, executed May 20, 1986, for the Oct. 4, 1976, murder of Jacksonville businessman James N. Stone. He was a co-defendant with Timothy Palmes, executed Jan. 30, 1985.
17. Beauford White, 41, executed Aug. 28, 1987, for his role in the July 27, 1977, shooting of eight people, six fatally, during the robbery of a small-time drug dealer's home in Carol City, a Miami suburb. He was a co-defendant with Marvin Francois, executed May 29, 1985.
18. Willie Jasper Darden, 54, executed March 15, 1988, for the September 1973 shooting of James C. Turman in Lakeland.
19. Jeffrey Joseph Daugherty, 33, executed March 15, 1988, for the March 1976 murder of hitchhiker Lavonne Patricia Sailer in Brevard County.
20. Theodore Robert Bundy, 42, executed Jan. 24, 1989, for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach of Lake City at the end of a cross-country killing spree. Leach was kidnapped Feb. 9, 1978, and her body was found three months later some 32 miles west of Lake City.
21. Aubry Dennis Adams Jr., 31, executed May 4, 1989, for strangling 8-year-old Trisa Gail Thornley on Jan. 23, 1978, in Ocala.
22. Jessie Joseph Tafero, 43, executed May 4, 1990, for the February 1976 shooting deaths of Florida Highway Patrolman Phillip Black and his friend Donald Irwin, a Canadian constable from Kitchener, Ontario. Flames shot from Tafero's head during the execution.
23. Anthony Bertolotti, 38, executed July 27, 1990, for the Sept. 27, 1983, stabbing death and rape of Carol Ward in Orange County.
24. James William Hamblen, 61, executed Sept. 21, 1990, for the April 24, 1984, shooting death of Laureen Jean Edwards during a robbery at the victim's Jacksonville lingerie shop.
25. Raymond Robert Clark, 49, executed Nov. 19, 1990, for the April 27, 1977, shooting murder of scrap metal dealer David Drake in Pinellas County.
26. Roy Allen Harich, 32, executed April 24, 1991, for the June 27, 1981, sexual assault, shooting and slashing death of Carlene Kelly near Daytona Beach.
27. Bobby Marion Francis, 46, executed June 25, 1991, for the June 17, 1975, murder of drug informant Titus R. Walters in Key West.
28. Nollie Lee Martin, 43, executed May 12, 1992, for the 1977 murder of a 19-year-old George Washington University student, who was working at a Delray Beach convenience store.
29. Edward Dean Kennedy, 47, executed July 21, 1992, for the April 11, 1981, slayings of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Howard McDermon and Floyd Cone after escaping from Union Correctional Institution.
30. Robert Dale Henderson, 48, executed April 21, 1993, for the 1982 shootings of three hitchhikers in Hernando County. He confessed to 12 murders in five states.
31. Larry Joe Johnson, 49, executed May 8, 1993, for the 1979 slaying of James Hadden, a service station attendant in small north Florida town of Lee in Madison County. Veterans groups claimed Johnson suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
32. Michael Alan Durocher, 33, executed Aug. 25, 1993, for the 1983 murders of his girlfriend, Grace Reed, her daughter, Candice, and his 6-month-old son Joshua in Clay County. Durocher also convicted in two other killings.
33. Roy Allen Stewart, 38, executed April 22, 1994, for beating, raping and strangling of 77-year-old Margaret Haizlip of Perrine in Dade County on Feb. 22, 1978.
34. Bernard Bolander, 42, executed July 18, 1995, for the Dade County murders of four men, whose bodies were set afire in car trunk on Jan. 8, 1980.
35. Jerry White, 47, executed Dec. 4, 1995, for the slaying of a customer in an Orange County grocery store robbery in 1981.
36. Phillip A. Atkins, 40, executed Dec. 5, 1995, for the molestation and rape of a 6-year-old Lakeland boy in 1981.
37. John Earl Bush, 38, executed Oct. 21, 1996, for the 1982 slaying of Francis Slater, an heir to the Envinrude outboard motor fortune. Slater was working in a Stuart convenience store when she was kidnapped and murdered.
38. John Mills Jr., 41, executed Dec. 6, 1996, for the fatal shooting of Les Lawhon in Wakulla and burglarizing Lawhon's home.
39. Pedro Medina, 39, executed March 25, 1997, for the 1982 slaying of his neighbor Dorothy James, 52, in Orlando. Medina was the first Cuban who came to Florida in the Mariel boat lift to be executed in Florida. During his execution, flames burst from behind the mask over his face, delaying Florida executions for almost a year.
40. Gerald Eugene Stano, 46, executed March 23, 1998, for the slaying of Cathy Scharf, 17, of Port Orange, who disappeared Nov. 14, 1973. Stano confessed to killing 41 women.
41. Leo Alexander Jones, 47, executed March 24, 1998, for the May 23, 1981, slaying of Jacksonville police Officer Thomas Szafranski.
42. Judy Buenoano, 54, executed March 30, 1998, for the poisoning death of her husband, Air Force Sgt. James Goodyear, Sept. 16, 1971.
43. Daniel Remeta, 40, executed March 31, 1998, for the murder of Ocala convenience store clerk Mehrle Reeder in February 1985, the first of five killings in three states laid to Remeta.
44. Allen Lee ``Tiny'' Davis, 54, executed in a new electric chair on July 8, 1999, for the May 11, 1982, slayings of Jacksonville resident Nancy Weiler and her daughters, Kristina and Katherine. Bleeding from Davis' nose prompted continued examination of effectiveness of electrocution and the switch to lethal injection.
45. Terry M. Sims, 58, became the first Florida inmate to be executed by injection on Feb. 23, 2000. Sims died for the 1977 slaying of a volunteer deputy sheriff in a central Florida robbery.
46. Anthony Bryan, 40, died from lethal injection Feb. 24, 2000, for the 1983 slaying of George Wilson, 60, a night watchman abducted from his job at a seafood wholesaler in Pascagoula, Miss., and killed in Florida.
47. Bennie Demps, 49, died from lethal injection June 7, 2000, for the 1976 murder of another prison inmate, Alfred Sturgis. Demps spent 29 years on death row before he was executed.
48. Thomas Provenzano, 51, died from lethal injection on June 21, 2000, for a 1984 shooting at the Orange County courthouse in Orlando. Provenzano was sentenced to death for the murder of William ``Arnie'' Wilkerson, 60.
49. Dan Patrick Hauser, 30, died from lethal injection on Aug. 25, 2000, for the 1995 murder of Melanie Rodrigues, a waitress and dancer in Destin. Hauser dropped all his legal appeals.
50. Edward Castro, died from lethal injection on Dec. 7, 2000, for the 1987 choking and stabbing death of 56-year-old Austin Carter Scott, who was lured to Castro's efficiency apartment in Ocala by the promise of Old Milwaukee beer. Castro dropped all his appeals.
51. Robert Glock, 39 died from lethal injection on Jan. 11, 2001, for the kidnapping murder of a Sharilyn Ritchie, a teacher in Manatee County. She was kidnapped outside a Bradenton shopping mall and taken to an orange grove in Pasco County, where she was robbed and killed. Glock's co-defendant Robert Puiatti remains on death row.
52. Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco, 43, died of lethal injection on Oct. 2, 2002, after dropping appeals from his conviction in the December 1986 rape-slaying of 11-year-old Katixa ``Kathy'' Ecenarro in Hialeah. Sanchez-Velasco also killed two fellow inmates while on death row.
53. Aileen Wuornos, 46, died from lethal injection on Oct. 9, 2002, after dropping appeals for deaths of six men along central Florida highways.
54. Linroy Bottoson, 63, died of lethal injection on Dec. 9, 2002, for the 1979 murder of Catherine Alexander, who was robbed, held captive for 83 hours, stabbed 16 times and then fatally crushed by a car.
55. Amos King, 48, executed by lethal inection for the March 18, 1977 slaying of 68-year-old Natalie Brady in her Tarpon Spring home. King was a work-release inmate in a nearby prison.
56. Newton Slawson, 48, executed by lethal injection for the April 11, 1989 slaying of four members of a Tampa family. Slawson was convicted in the shooting deaths of Gerald and Peggy Wood, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and their two young children, Glendon, 3, and Jennifer, 4. Slawson sliced Peggy Wood's body with a knife and pulled out her fetus, which had two gunshot wounds and multiple cuts.
57. Paul Hill, 49, executed for the July 29, 1994, shooting deaths of Dr. John Bayard Britton and his bodyguard, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Herman Barrett, and the wounding of Barrett's wife outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola.
58. Johnny Robinson, died by lethal injection on Feb. 4, 2004, for the Aug. 12, 1985 slaying of Beverly St. George was traveling from Plant City to Virginia in August 1985 when her car broke down on Interstate 95, south of St. Augustine. He abducted her at gunpoint, took her to a cemetery, raped her and killed her.
59. John Blackwelder, 49, was executed by injection on May 26, 2004, for the calculated slaying in May 2000 of Raymond Wigley, who was serving a life term for murder. Blackwelder, who was serving a life sentence for a series of sex convictions, pleaded guilty to the slaying so he would receive the death penalty.
60. Glen Ocha, 47, was execited by injection April 5, 2005, for the October, 1999, strangulation of 28-year-old convenience store employee Carol Skjerva, who had driven him to his Osceola County home and had sex with him. He had dropped all appeals.
Rolling v. State, 695 So.2d 278 (Fla. 1997) (Direct Appeal)
After defendant pled guilty to murders of five college students, jury recommended sentence of death and the Circuit Court, Alachua County, Stan R. Morris, J., imposed sentence of death, and defendant appealed. The Supreme Court held that: (1) pretrial publicity did not require change of venue: (2) statements to fellow inmate and to investigators were not result of Sixth Amendment violation; (3) inventory search of tote bag found at campsite was proper; (4) defendant waived claim of error in joinder of offenses for penalty phase; (5) instruction on heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC) aggravating factor was proper; and (6) penalty was not disproportionate. Affirmed. Anstead, J., filed opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Danny Harold Rolling, a prisoner under sentence of death, pled guilty to the murders of five college students-Sonya Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Manual Taboada and Tracy Paules-and other related charges. He now appeals the trial court's imposition of five death sentences after adjudicating him guilty of each of the murders and holding a penalty phase proceeding pursuant to section 921.141(1), Florida Statutes (1995). We have jurisdiction under article V, section 3(b)(1), of the Florida Constitution. For the reasons expressed below, we affirm the imposition of the death sentences.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The record reflects that in the early morning hours of August 24, 1990, Danny Rolling, armed with both an automatic pistol and a Marine Corps K-Bar knife, broke through the rear door of an apartment shared by college students Sonya Larson and Christina Powell. Upon entering the apartment, Rolling observed Christina Powell asleep on the downstairs couch. He stood over her briefly, but did not awaken her.
Rolling then crept upstairs where he found Sonya Larson asleep in her bedroom. After pausing to decide with which young woman he desired to have sexual relations, he attacked Ms. Larson as she lay in her bed, stabbing her first in the upper chest area. He then placed a double strip of duct tape over her mouth to muffle her cries and continued to stab her as she unsuccessfully attempted to fend off his blows.
During the attack, she was stabbed on her arms and received a slashing blow to her left thigh. Ms. Larson maintained consciousness for less than a minute and died as a direct result of the stab wounds inflicted by Rolling. After killing Ms. Larson, Rolling returned to the downstairs of the apartment where Ms. Powell remained asleep. He pressed a double strip of tape over her mouth and taped her hands behind her back. Rolling cut off her clothing and undergarments with the K-Bar knife and sexually battered Ms. Powell, threatening her with the knife. Thereafter, Rolling forced her to lie facedown on the floor near the couch and stabbed her five times in the back, causing her death. Rolling posed the bodies of the victims and left the apartment.
Approximately forty-two hours later, during the evening hours of Saturday, August 25, Rolling broke into the apartment of college student Christa Hoyt, located about two miles away from the first crime scene, by prying open the sliding glass door with a screwdriver. Armed with the same automatic pistol and K-Bar knife, Rolling waited in the living room for the arrival of Ms. Hoyt, a young woman into whose bedroom he had peeked a few days earlier.
When Ms. Hoyt eventually returned home at about 11 a.m., Rolling surprised her from behind, placing her in a choke-hold and subduing her after a brief struggle. He taped her mouth and her hands and then led her into her bedroom where, after cutting and tearing off her clothing and undergarments, he forced her onto her bed, threatened her with his knife, and sexually battered her. Rolling subsequently turned Ms. Hoyt facedown in her bed and stabbed her through the back, rupturing her aorta and killing her. Just as he had done with his first two victims, Rolling posed the body of his third victim and left the apartment.
A little over a day later, at approximately 3 a.m. on August 27, Rolling entered a third apartment, occupied by roommates and college students Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada. Again, Rolling broke into the apartment by prying open the double-glass sliding door with the same screwdriver he used to enter Ms. Hoyt's apartment.
Armed with the same pistol and knife, Rolling crept into one of the bedrooms where he found Manny Taboada asleep. Rolling attacked Taboada, stabbing him in the solar plexus and penetrating his thoracic vertebra. Taboada was awakened by the blow and struggled to fight off his assailant. Rolling repeatedly stabbed him on the arms, hands, chest, legs and face and eventually killed him.
Hearing the commotion caused by the struggle, Tracy Paules approached Taboada's bedroom and, catching a glimpse of Rolling, fled to her room where she attempted to lock her door. Rolling, who was covered with Taboada's blood, followed Ms. Paules and broke through her bedroom door. Rolling subdued her, taped her mouth and her hands, and cut or tore off her t-shirt. He sexually battered her and threatened her with his knife before turning her over on the bed and killing her with three stabbing blows to her back. Finally, Rolling cleaned and posed the body of Tracy Paules and left the apartment.
This case originated in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in and for Alachua County. On November 15, 1991, the grand jury of Alachua County indicted appellant, Danny Rolling, for these serial murders. He was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, three counts of sexual battery, and three counts of armed burglary of a dwelling with a battery. On June 9, 1992, Rolling entered a plea of not guilty on all counts. Subsequently, on February 15, 1994, the day set for trial, Rolling changed his plea to guilty on all counts. The trial court accepted Rolling's plea after reviewing with him the factual basis for it and adjudicated him guilty on all counts.
A penalty phase proceeding was held, and the jury recommended that Rolling be sentenced to death for each murder by a vote of twelve to zero. The trial court followed the jury's advisory recommendation and sentenced Rolling to death for each homicide, finding four aggravating circumstances applicable to each homicide: (1) Rolling had been previously convicted of a violent felony; (2) each murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated; (3) each murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel; (4) each murder was committed while Rolling was engaged in the commission of a burglary or sexual battery. The trial court found as statutory mitigating factors that (1) Rolling had the emotional age of a fifteen-year-old; and (2) Rolling committed the crimes while under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance. As for nonstatutory mitigators, the trial court found: (1) Rolling came from a dysfunctional family where he suffered physical and mental abuse during his childhood, and this background contributed to his mental condition at the time of the offenses; (2) Rolling cooperated with law enforcement officers by confessing and entering a guilty plea on all counts, thereby saving the criminal justice system time and expense; (3) Rolling felt remorse for his actions; (4) Rolling's family has a history of mental illness; and (5) Rolling's ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was impaired because of his mental illness.FN1 FN1. The trial court concluded that Rolling's impairment “did not rise to the level of being substantial, and is therefore not a statutory mitigating factor.” See § 921.141(6)(f), Fla.Stat. (1995).
Rolling raises six claims of error on appeal: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a change of venue and thereby violated his Sixth Amendment right to be fairly tried by an impartial jury because pervasive and prejudicial pretrial publicity so infected the Gainesville and Alachua County community that seating an impartial jury there was patently impossible; (2) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to suppress his statements which were obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; (3) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to sever and conduct three separate sentencing proceedings; (4) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to suppress physical evidence seized from his tent because the warrantless search and seizure violated his reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment; (5) the trial court erred in finding as an aggravating circumstance that the homicide of Sonya Larson was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and finally (6) the trial court erred by giving an invalid and unconstitutional jury instruction on the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating circumstance. We now address each issue in turn.
* * *
THE HEINOUS, ATROCIOUS, OR CRUEL AGGRAVATOR
Rolling argues that the trial court erred in finding the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating circumstance as to the murder of Sonya Larson because there was no evidence that Ms. Larson, who was attacked in her sleep, anticipated her death or otherwise endured “extreme pain or prolonged suffering.” Elam v. State, 636 So.2d 1312 (Fla.1994). The trial court's sentencing order states in pertinent part: Sonya Larson was killed in her own bed by multiple stab wounds···· The attack was characterized by the medical examiner as a “blitz” attack after which the victim would have remained alive for a period from thirty to sixty seconds. Despite the relative shortness of the event, the fact that many of the wounds were characterized as defensive wounds indicates that the victim was awake and aware of what was occurring. During all this time, the victim's mouth was taped shut so that she could not cry out.
Contrary to Rolling's assertion that there was no evidence that Ms. Larson endured “prolonged suffering” or “anticipated her death,” the record reflects the medical examiner testified that Ms. Larson sustained defensive wounds on her arms during Rolling's attack and was awake between thirty and sixty seconds before losing consciousness and dying. Moreover, Rolling's statement to police on January 31 is consistent with the medical examiner's testimony and the trial court's finding. Rolling told police he stabbed Ms. Larson and put duct tape over her mouth to muffle her cries. He explained that he continued to stab her as she fought and tried to fend off his blows.
Finally, as the State correctly notes, Rolling's guilty plea to this murder on February 15, 1994, is supported by a factual basis which also shows that Rolling muffled Ms. Larson's cries and that she sustained defensive wounds on her arms and left thigh. Because the evidence in the record demonstrates that Ms. Larson was awake but disabled by the duct tape over her mouth while she struggled with her attacker, sustained several defensive wounds to her arms and leg, and did not die instantaneously, we find that the trial court properly found the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravator proved beyond a reasonable doubt. See Geralds v. State, 674 So.2d 96 (Fla.), cert.denied, 519 U.S. 891, 117 S.Ct. 230, 136 L.Ed.2d 161 (1996); Merck v. State, 664 So.2d 939, 943 (Fla.1995); Garcia v. State, 644 So.2d 59, 63 (Fla.1994); Dudley v. State, 545 So.2d 857, 860 (Fla.1989).
Rolling argues that the trial court erred in giving an unconstitutionally vague jury instruction as to the heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC) aggravating factor. Here, the trial court gave the following HAC jury instruction: The crime for which the Defendant is to be sentenced was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. Heinous means especially wicked or shockingly evil. Atrocious means outrageously wicked and vile. Cruel means designed to inflict a high degree of pain with utter indifference to, or even enjoyment of, the suffering of others. In order for you to find a first-degree murder was heinous, atrocious or cruel, you must find that it was accompanied by additional acts that showed that the crime was conscious [sic] or pitiless, and was unnecessarily torturous to the victim.
Events occurring after the victim dies or loses consciousness should not be considered by you to establish that this crime was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel. As the State correctly explains, the instant instruction, which is similar in all material aspects to the instruction upheld by this Court in Hall v. State, 614 So.2d 473, 478 (Fla.1993), has been reaffirmed on numerous occasions. See Geralds v. State, 674 So.2d 96 (Fla.1996); Merck v. State, 664 So.2d 939, 943 (Fla.1995). Consequently, we reject Rolling's claim that the trial court's instruction to the jury on the HAC aggravator was unconstitutional. We find that the jury in Rolling's penalty phase trial received a specific instruction which fairly apprised the jurors of the definition of each term as well as the surrounding circumstances the State had to prove to support this aggravating factor.
Finally, albeit not argued by Rolling on appeal, our review of the entire record in this case shows that death is the appropriate sentence for each of these brutal murders and is not disproportionate given the facts and circumstances of this case. See Robinson v. State, 610 So.2d 1288 (Fla.1992); Coleman v. State, 610 So.2d 1283 (Fla.1992); Henderson v. State, 463 So.2d 196 (Fla.1985); Bundy v. State, 455 So.2d 330 (Fla.1985); Francois v. State, 407 So.2d 885 (Fla.1981). Accordingly, we affirm Rolling's sentences of death. It is so ordered. OVERTON, SHAW, GRIMES, HARDING and WELLS, JJ., concur.
ANSTEAD, Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I cannot concur in the majority's conclusion that appellant was not entitled to a change of venue. We have held that a change of venue is mandated when a record contains “evidence that a substantial number of the veniremen had lived in fear during a defendant's ‘reign of terror.’ ” See Thomas v. State, 374 So.2d 508, 516 (Fla.1979). If ever those words had meaning, they have meaning here. This case, consistent with the change of venue from Tallahassee to Miami in Bundy v. State, 455 So.2d 330 (Fla.1984), involving similar horrifying circumstances, should not have been tried in the same college community so deeply scarred by its crimes. We are only fooling ourselves, and closing our eyes to what is obvious to all, when we deny the magnitude and depth of the fear and loss sustained by the Gainesville community as reflected in this record. A justice system asks too much when it asks a community so deeply torn asunder to decide the fate of the person admittedly responsible for the unspeakable crimes at issue. There is an obvious and substantial qualitative difference between the task facing the citizens of Gainesville compared to this case being tried anywhere else in Florida. While any community or group of potential jurors would have difficulty being objective in a case of this nature, the community actually violated has been affected in a way profoundly unique because of its relationship to the crimes and the victims. Sometimes we ask too much. I fear we have done so here.
Rolling v. State, 825 So.2d 293 (Fla. 2002) (PCR)
After petitioner pled guilty to murders of five college students, jury recommended sentence of death and the Circuit Court, Alachua County, Stan R. Morris, J., imposed sentence of death. Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court, 695 So.2d 278, affirmed. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief. The Supreme Court held that: (1) the claim of assistance of counsel was procedurally barred, and (2) attorneys' three-year delay in moving for change of venue after jury selection had begun was within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Affirmed. Harding, J., concurred in the result only.
Danny Harold Rolling, a prisoner under sentence of death and an active death warrant, appeals the circuit court's order denying without an evidentiary hearing his successive motion for postconviction relief. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the circuit court's order.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The execution of Danny Harold Rolling is set for October 25, 2006. The factual background and procedural history of this case are detailed in this Court's opinion on Rolling's direct appeal. See Rolling v. State, 695 So.2d 278, 281-83 (Fla.1997). After initially pleading not guilty, on February 15, 1994, the day Rolling's trial was scheduled to begin, he pled guilty to five counts of first-degree murder, three counts of sexual battery, and three counts of armed burglary of a dwelling with a battery. Id. at 282. “A penalty phase proceeding was held, and the jury recommended that Rolling be sentenced to death for each murder by a vote of twelve to zero. The trial court followed the jury's advisory recommendation and sentenced Rolling to death for each homicide····” Id. This Court affirmed Rolling's sentences of death, FN1 id. at 278, and the United States Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari. Rolling v. Florida, 522 U.S. 984 (1997).
FN1. On direct appeal, Rolling raised the following six claims of error: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a change of venue and thereby violated his Sixth Amendment right to be fairly tried by an impartial jury because pervasive and prejudicial pretrial publicity so infected the Gainesville and Alachua County community that seating an impartial jury there was patently impossible; (2) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to suppress his statements which were obtained in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; (3) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to sever and conduct three separate sentencing proceedings; (4) the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to suppress physical evidence seized from his tent because the warrantless search and seizure violated his reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment; (5) the trial court erred in finding as an aggravating circumstance that the homicide of Sonya Larson was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and finally (6) the trial court erred by giving an invalid and unconstitutional jury instruction on the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating circumstance.
Rolling first filed a Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 motion for postconviction relief in November 1998, and filed an amended motion in April 1999, raising two claims.FN2 After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief, and this Court affirmed. Rolling v. State, 825 So.2d 293, 294 (Fla.2002). Thereafter, Rolling sought federal habeas relief in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The district court denied relief on July 1, 2005, and Rolling appealed. On February 9, 2006, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion affirming the district court's denial of Rolling's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Rolling v. Crosby, 438 F.3d 1296, 1298 (11th Cir.2006). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on June 26, 2006. Rolling v. McDonough, 126 S.Ct. 2943 (2006). FN2. The claims were as follows: (1) ineffectiveness of trial counsel regarding change of venue, and (2) ineffectiveness of trial counsel for failing to challenge three particular jurors during voir dire.
On September 22, 2006, Governor Jeb Bush signed a death warrant authorizing Rolling's execution. In response to the signing of the death warrant, Rolling filed his second 3.851 motion on October 4, 2006, which raised four claims. FN3 The State filed a response on October 6, 2006. On October 9, 2006, the trial court entered its order summarily denying all claims raised in the successive motion. This appeal follows.
FN3. The claims were as follows: (1) access to the files and records pertaining to Rolling's case in the possession of certain state agencies has been withheld in violation of chapter 119, Florida Statutes, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and articles 1, 9, and 17 of the Florida Constitution; (2) the existing procedure that the State of Florida utilizes for lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; (3) the administration of pancuronium bromide violates Rolling's First Amendment right to free speech; and (4) newly discovered empirical evidence demonstrates that Rolling's conviction and sentence of death constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Rolling first argues that the trial court erred in denying Rolling's claim that Florida's method of execution by lethal injection violates Rolling's right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and his right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Rolling also argues that the trial court erred in denying Rolling's motion to obtain public records from the Florida Department of Corrections and the Medical Examiner for the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida pertaining to autopsy and toxicology reports of persons executed in Florida by lethal injection and protocols used in the lethal injection process. This Court has explained: Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850(d) provides that a defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on postconviction claims for relief unless “the motion, files, and records in the case conclusively show that the movant is entitled to no relief.”
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851(f)(5)(B) applies the same standard to successive postconviction motions in capital cases. In reviewing a trial court's summary denial of postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, this Court “must accept all allegations in the motion as true to the extent they are not conclusively rebutted by the record.” Hodges v. State, 885 So.2d 338, 355 (Fla.2004) (quoting Gaskin v. State, 737 So.2d 509, 516 (Fla.1999)). “To uphold the trial court's summary denial of claims raised in a 3.850 motion, the claims must be either facially invalid or conclusively refuted by the record.” McLin v. State, 827 So.2d 948, 954 (Fla.2002) (quoting Foster v. Moore, 810 So.2d 910, 914 (Fla.2002)). Rutherford v. State, 926 So.2d 1100, 1108 (Fla.), cert. denied, 126 S.Ct. 1191 (2006). We find no error by the trial court under this standard.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
In his first claim, Rolling argues that a research letter published in April 2005 in The Lancet presents new scientific evidence that Florida's procedure for carrying out lethal injection may subject the inmate to unnecessary pain. See Leonidas G. Koniaris et al., Inadequate Anaesthesia in Lethal Injection for Execution, 365 Lancet 1412 (2005). He supports this claim with an affidavit from one of the study's authors, Dr. David A. Lubarsky, asserting that Florida's procedure is substantially similar to the procedures used in the other states evaluated in the study. Rolling ultimately asserts that the information in this study is new information not previously available to this Court when it decided Sims v. State, 754 So.2d 657 (Fla.2000).
The trial court summarily denied this claim and found that Rolling was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on whether lethal injection, as administered in Florida, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, stating that this Court determined in Sims, that lethal injection as administered by the Department of Corrections did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In Hill v. State, 921 So.2d 579 (Fla.), cert. denied, 126 S.Ct. 1441 (2006), this Court addressed the same claim now asserted by Rolling and upheld the trial court's summary denial of the claim. We again rejected such a claim in Rutherford v. State, 926 So.2d at 1113-14. As in those cases, we affirm the trial court's summary denial of this claim in Rolling's case.
First Amendment Claim
Rolling next asserts that the circuit court erred in denying an evidentiary hearing on his claim that the administration of pancuronium bromide violates his free speech rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Specifically, Rolling contends that the administration of pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles, violates his right to free speech because it renders him unable to communicate any feeling of pain that may result if the execution procedure is carried out improperly. Thus, Rolling's claim is inextricably intertwined with his claim that there is a possibility that the first chemical, sodium pentothal, will not be administered properly, leaving him wholly or partially conscious. The circuit court summarily denied this claim. In Rutherford, this Court addressed the same claim and found that, because the defendant could not demonstrate that the chemicals involved in lethal injection would be administered improperly in his case, the defendant was not entitled to relief on this claim. 926 So.2d at 1114-15. Therefore, as in Rutherford, we find Rolling's identical First Amendment claim to be without merit and find no error in the trial court's denial applying our decision in Rutherford.
Public Records Claim
Rolling next argues that the circuit court erred in denying an evidentiary hearing on his claims arising from his public records requests. On September 28, 2006, Rolling filed a motion for production of additional public records to the Florida Medical Examiner's Office of the Eighth Circuit of Florida and the Department of Corrections, and a motion for serological samples and for independent testing to the trial court. Rolling requested autopsy reports and toxicology studies performed on the sixteen individuals executed by lethal injection from 2000 to 2005 and all documents related to the Department of Corrections' administration of lethal injection and Rolling's own medical records.
He also requested to have independent testing of post-execution blood samples of Arthur Rutherford, scheduled for execution on October 18, 2006. The State filed responses opposing each of these requests. On October 4, 2006, the trial court entered an order denying Rolling's motion for production of additional public records and motion for serological samples and for independent testing because Rolling had served this public records request six days after Governor Bush signed Rolling's death warrant on September 22, 2006. The trial court stated that Rolling was entitled to his own medical records as long as he complies with Department of Corrections regulations. Rolling then argued that the withholding of public records violates chapter 119, Florida Statutes, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and article I, sections 9 and 17 of the Florida Constitution. The circuit court denied this claim.
Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.852(h)(3) applies to cases in which a mandate was issued prior to the effective date of the rule. The effective date of the rule was October 1, 1998, and this Court affirmed Rolling's conviction and death sentence on March 20, 1997. The rule states: Within 10 days of the signing of a defendant's death warrant, collateral counsel may request in writing the production of public records from a person or agency from which collateral counsel has previously requested public records. A person or agency shall copy, index, and deliver to the repository any public record: (A) that was not previously the subject of an objection; (B) that was received or produced since the previous request; or (C) that was, for any reason, not produced previously. Fla. R.Crim. P. 3.852(h)(3) (emphasis added). Because there is no evidence in the record that Rolling has ever requested records from the Medical Examiner's Office or the Department of Corrections before his September 28, 2006 request, we find that the trial court was correct in denying this claim without an evidentiary hearing. See also Rutherford, 926 So.2d at 1115-17 (denying the substantially same records request because the defendant failed to demonstrate that he had previously requested records concerning lethal injection in Florida, and reasoning that rule 3.852(h)(3) “is designed to allow an update of records previously requested”).
THE ABA REPORT
Rolling asserted a claim in the trial court that the American Bar Association report entitled Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in the State Death Penalty System: The Florida Death Penalty Assessment Report, published September 17, 2006, constitutes newly discovered evidence proving that imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The trial court denied this claim.
We recently addressed this issue in Rutherford v. State, Nos. SC06-1931 & SC06-1946 (Fla. Oct. 12, 2006), wherein we concluded that the ABA Report is not newly discovered evidence because it “is a compilation of previously available information related to Florida's death penalty system and consists of legal analysis and recommendations for reform, many of which are directed to the executive and legislative branches.” Id., slip op. at 10. We also held that nothing in the report would cause this Court to recede from its past decisions upholding the facial constitutionality of the death penalty, and that the defendant did not allege how any of the conclusions in the report would render his individual death sentence unconstitutional. Id., slip op. at 11. For these same reasons, we affirm the circuit court's summary denial of Rolling's claim.
For the reasons explained above, we affirm the circuit court's order denying Rolling's successive motion for postconviction relief. It is so ordered.