Danny ‘The Gainesville Ripper’ Rolling
Danny Harold Rolling was born on May 26th, 1954 in Shreveport, Louisiana he was the eldest of two boys to father James Rolling and his wife Claudia. His father was a police officer who quite obviously should not have been; he regularly beat both his sons and supplemented these beatings with bondage and blindfolds as punishment for indiscretions.
Why do i say their father should not have been a police officer? In addition to frequently beating his children, for real and imagined reasons, James Rolling used to capture stray cats from around the neighbourhood which he would then torture to death, enjoying their screams of pain as they suffered.
His mother was of no help having made excuses for her husband’s extremely strange and violent behaviours, while never supporting either of her sons. When Danny was 9 years old she suffered a nervous breakdown and was not a part of their lives from that point on. This bout of trouble also contributed to Danny failing the 3rd grade
In high school both children had psychological dilemmas and were described by school counsellors as having an inferiority complex and problems with anger management and poor impulse control. By the time he was in his early adolescence Danny had become a heavy drinker and at one stage was caught red handed by his father who handcuffed and arrested him. Courtesy of this he served two weeks in Shreveport’s local jail and not surprisingly upon release he ran away from home after yet another argument with dad.
This pattern of coming and going from the family home would continue for the rest of his life, more prominently during his high school years and due to this he also failed his Sophomore year before dropping out and joining the United States Air Force at the age of 17. Unfortunately for Danny Rolling though his chronic drug and alcohol abuse continued once he was in the USAF and he subsequently served time in a military prison. In 1973 he was given a premature dishonourable discharge along with being diagnosed with an unspecified personality disorder.
Back in Shreveport he was constantly drunk or stoned yet somehow found religion at a local Pentecostal church. Here he met a 19 year old girl by the name of Mather Halko and they married in September 1974. This seemed to settle Rolling down for a period of time although by the following year when they had their first child the marriage was already on the rocks and she left him in 1977.
Resuming his former life of crime Rolling began committing armed robberies and stealing cars. In August 1979 he was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison for robbery of a store in Columbus, Georgia and an escape attempt once incarcerated added another year to his sentence. For a reason i have not been able to establish from my research, a public defender advised Rolling to confess to another armed robbery he had committed in July 1979 in Alabama. This netted him an additional 10 year custodial sentence that he would have to serve consecutively as it was committed in a different state to the one he was currently incarcerated in. He started serving this sentence in June 1982 but was for unknown reasons paroled in 1984, only 2 years later.
Once again he returned to Shreveport to live with his father, who was now retired. However home was still a raging battleground and he hit the road again. In July 1985 he robbed a store in Clinton, Mississippi and was arrested the next day in a stolen car. For this indiscretion he was given a 15 year sentence, of which again he only served a very small amount and was paroled in July 1988 after barely 3 years on the inside. And yes, again he returned to Shreveport where he was able to obtain stable employment as an electrician’s apprentice.
By this stage though, Danny Rolling’s dreams had grown increasingly strange and violent. Then on November 6, 1989, Tom Grissom, his 24 yr old daughter Julie and his 8 yr old grandson Sean were found murdered inside their Shreveport home. All had been repeatedly stabbed with a long bladed knife but Julie was quite obviously the killer’s intended or main target. She had been slashed and mutilated, both pre and post-mortem, was covered in bite marks, had been washed down with soap in an attempt to remove any trace evidence and had been posed in a sexually explicit manner.
Investigators were at a loss as to suspects and Rolling was never even on their list. Nonetheless Danny encountered yet more trouble at home and on May 17, 1990 a violent altercation erupted over an amazingly trivial subject – should car windows be rolled up or left down when it is raining? The senior Rolling pulled out a hand gun in a misguided attempt to settle the question but Danny relinquished his father of the pistol before shooting him in the stomach and head. Fearing he had just murdered his father he fled the scene and headed for Louisiana, strangely though his father survived.
Eventually he ended up in Gainesville, Florida and on August 26, 1990 two bodies were discovered in an apartment complex. The victims were those of Sonja Larsen, 18, and Christina Powell, 17 – they had been deceased for approximately 2 days, had both been mutilated with nipples cut off one victim while the other had been sodomised.
At 1:30am the next day Christa Hoyt, an 18 year old student that was a part time employee of the local Sheriff’s office was found murdered in her home. Her naked body had been washed with liquid soap and once again posed in a sexually explicit manner. Further to this she had been decapitated and her severed head was being proudly displayed on her bookshelf, surrounded by mirrors so that the gruesome image projected out her window.
A day later again on August 28, 1990 Tracy Paules and Manual Taboada were both stabbed repeatedly to death. Tracy had been sodomised but apart from that there were no ritualistic overtones from the earlier killings. All three crime scenes had been wiped clean of fingerprints while there was also evidence of blood being removed from the scene – the motive of which was never established.
Social panic took flight as students left Gainesville in droves only 2 weeks into the semester while investigators were focusing their attention to a list of 7 suspects. The spotlight was currently on Edward Humphrey, a local 18 year old that was a diagnosed bipolar sufferer and he also had a history of admission to psychiatric facilities. Known to skip his medication at times he believed Satan was pursuing him – a sign of a paranoid delusions that some sufferers of bipolar are known to endure (the more common type is simply delusions of grandiosity). He had attempted suicide twice, was often involved in physical altercations and was fascinated with ninjas and knives.
His neighbour was a police officer who called him a ‘goddamned weirdo who’s always acting mental’ and odd behaviour seemed to worsen around the time of the murders with him threatening employees at a local bar with slitting their throats for refusing him service on August 24th (the proposed day the first two victims were murdered).
On August 30 he had a violent altercation with his grandmother and was arrested; while in custody police delved deeper into his movements at the time of the killings and could not find any hard evidence to connect him to any of the crimes. Nonetheless he was convicted of assaulting his grandmother on October 10, 1990 and was sentenced to inpatient treatment in Chattahoochee State Hospital.
Danny Rolling though, as usual, was in trouble; he continued committing burglaries and narrowly escaped capture a number of times with police suspecting he was a pusher (drug dealer). He also boasted to acquaintances that he had robbed a local bank but no evidence of this ever came to light. In an attempt to escape some of the heat around him in Gainesville he drove to Tampa in a stolen car and robbed a supermarket there on September 1, 1990. After a number of other burglaries he committed yet another robbery, this time in Ocala on September 7. Police were quick to respond and a high speed pursuit ensued with Rolling eventually crashing his getaway car and fleeing on foot, leaving his $4700 loot behind. He was eventually discovered by police on patrol in the area hiding behind a garbage dumpster and arrested.
Back in Gainesville detectives were examining records of similar murders across the USA courtesy of the ViCAP system which had been in existence since 1985 when the computer gave them the details of the Grissom triple homicide in Shreveport – it cited similar weapons, post-mortem mutilation, washing of the bodies to remove evidence, posing of the corpse and the petite brunette victims as all similar to the homicides they were investigating. Shortly after this it was discovered that Rolling, who was still in custody, was from Shreveport and in addition was wanted for the shooting assault of his father. Pubic hair and tools were then recovered from a camp site where Rolling was living and a substantial material and biological link was established between him and all the murders in Gainesville. DNA was also found to match semen found inside the sodomised victims.
Between September 25 and October 19 of 1991 detectives continued to build their murder case, while Rolling was being convicted of three burglaries and, given his lengthy criminal record, he was given an extremely long custodial sentence – a relief no doubt to detectives.
In November they finally had enough evidence to obtain an indictment on all 5 murders committed in Gainesville and rolling agreed to talk about the killings.
He immediately began to blame his urge to kill on a split personality that he called Gemini. This alter ego apparently loved to make people suffer and Gemini told each individual victim what was planned for them – mutilations, everything – while they were still alive before the ‘festivities’ began.
On February 15, 1994 jury selection finally began after long case related delays but Rolling automatically changed his plea to guilty in a vain attempt to receive some mercy in his sentencing. On April 20, 1994 he was sentenced to die in Florida’s electric chair and he was finally executed on October 25, 2006 by lethal injection due to the abolishment of the electric chair. He was pronounced dead at 6:13pm local time.
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