Saturday, November 11, 2006

October 25, 2006

...The Gainesville Ripper...

Last Meal: Rolling, 52, had a final meal request of lobster tail, butterfly shrimp, a baked potato, strawberry cheesecake and sweet tea. A prison official reported, "He enjoyed his last meal. He ate every bite."

The skinny: Danny Rolling was executed for multiple murders and rapes. 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.

More skinny: Known as the Gainesville Ripper, Rolling murdered four University of Florida students and a Santa Fe Community College student in their apartments in 1990.

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.

The slayings began in August, 1990 when Rolling broke into the apartment of two women. They were found mutilated and stabbed to death. He had raped both women, one after she was dead.

The next day, Rolling killed an 18-year old woman. 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 two roommates, one man and one woman, both 23. Rolling posed his mutilated victims in sexually provocative positions and kept body parts as trophies.

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. The campus shut down for a week and many of the 34,000 students scrambled home, some never to return. Others slept a dozen to a house. Deadbolt locks flew off the shelves. 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. 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 two of the victims lived.

Meanwhile, Rolling remained at large until September 8, when he was arrested after a botched robbery. But in January 1991, the police discovered Mr. Rolling in a county jail south of Gainesville, awaiting trial. He initially denied committing the murders, but DNA left at the crime scenes in Gainesville matched genetic material police recovered from Rolling during some dental work. 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.”

Rolling later told other inmates and psychologists he had wanted to kill eight people for each year he had previously served in prison.

Rolling had a series of prior violent felonies; 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.

Just hours before he was executed earlier, Rolling confessed to three other killings in Louisiana, in which he was the only suspect, but was never tried for those crimes.

Rolling attributed his behavior to abuse by his father, a police officer, and to an evil alter ego.
In prison, Rolling drew disturbing pictures and wrote a graphic book, “The Making of a Serial Killer,” with a woman who was his fiancée for a time.

The day of: Dozens of media satellite trucks sprouted up near the prison, in a scene reminiscent 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. Rolling later said in one of his confessions that he wanted to become a ''superstar.''

On his last day, Rolling was calm and cooperative ahead of the execution. He spent several hours with his brother Kevin, and his brother's pastor.

Last words and such: 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.

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,

Factoids: A wall near Gainesville campus is painted with the names of the victims, hearts and “Remember 1990.”

Rolling was the...

47th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1051st murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
3rd murderer executed in Florida in 2006
63rd murderer executed in Florida since 1976

He was the 259th since 1924, when the state took over the duty from individual counties

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."

Death-penalty supporters whistled and clapped with word of Rolling's demise.

Anti-death penalty protesters sung "Amazing Grace," "Kumbaya" and "Blowin' in the Wind" and methodically banged a hammer on an anvil.

Huh? 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.

What argument do you make to spare a monster? This from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty:

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.

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.