Rolling death warrant stirs hope, memoriesFAMILIES LOOK TO EXECUTION FOR CLOSURE, WHILE MANY STUDENTS ARE UNAWARE.By DOMINICK E. TAOAlligator Writer
Danny Rolling, the serial killer who murdered five college students and ignited a frenzy of panic in Gainesville 16 years ago, will be put to death in October, according to a death warrant signed by Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday.
Rolling, 52, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. His last appeal was denied in June, and the governor refused him clemency.
For Ricky Paules, the wait up to Rolling's execution day is just "one of many roads" she has faced since he killed her daughter, Tracy Paules, 23, of Palm Springs.
"This road is next to the last one," Paules said.
The first began at the start of Fall semester, 1990, when Rolling killed five UF and SFCC students in their apartments. He either invaded their residences or hid inside, waiting for them. Four of his victims were dark-haired young women; the other was one of their male roommates.
To kill, Rolling used a knife. Before stabbing three of his victims to death, he raped them. Rolling decapitated one of his victims, posing her head near the apartment's front door for friends or police to discover.
Rollings' other victims were Christa Hoyt, 19, of Archer; Sonja Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach; Christina Powell, 17, of Jacksonville; and Manuel Taboada, 23, of Miami.
Gainesville Police Sgt. Ray Barber - a 35-year-old patrolman in 1990 - was the officer who discovered Rolling's first victims at the Williamsburg Village Apartments on Aug. 26.
"There were two girls dead in the apartment," he said in an interview Saturday. "It was hard and dirty."
As more bodies were discovered in the next two days, Barber said fear engulfed the city.
"People would open their doors with baseball bats and guns," said Lt. Ed Posey, who was a plainclothes officer at the time of the murders. "Some guys said when they got off duty, they would search their houses. We had very little to go on."
As the panic began to diminish, Rolling was arrested for robbing a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Ocala on Sept. 8. It wasn't until months later that DNA evidence from bodily fluids left behind at the crime scenes identified him as the killer.
In 1994, Rolling pleaded guilty to the murders. He was sentenced to death. In the last 12 years, the name "Danny Rolling" has faded from the memory of many UF students.
"Now, people around here don't even think about him," Barber said. This is the fourth set of students since then."
For those who do remember, the thought of Rolling's execution means different things.
Posey said his closure came when he knew the right guy was behind bars. Paules is still waiting for the end.
At the idea of Rolling's execution is likely to be postponed, Paules only said, "Oh good Lord, don't tell me that."