Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rolling, suspect in '89 triple slaying here, to die in Florida

Rolling, suspect in '89 triple slaying here, to die in Florida

September 23, 2006

By John Andrew Prime

Former Shreveport drifter Danny Rolling, convicted of the 1990 slayings of five college students in Gainesville, Fla., and the chief suspect in a gruesome 1989 triple slaying here, will die by lethal injection Oct. 25.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed Rolling's death warrant Friday for Rolling, who pleaded guilty to the college-city slayings of Sonja Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach; Christina Powell, 17, of Jacksonville; Christa Hoyt, 19, of Archer; and Tracy Paules, 23, and Manuel Taboada, 23, both of Miami.Three of the five victims were mutilated. One woman was decapitated, her head placed on a bookshelf, her torso slit from neck to waist.

Three of the four women were raped. Several of the bodies were posed for shock value. A knife was used in all of the killings.

Discovery of the students’ bodies shocked Florida and the nation. But the crimes also resonated in Shreveport, where similarities were seen between the slayings of the college students and the torture deaths of a local family.

Rolling, the son of a former Shreveport police lieutenant, was and remains the chief suspect in the 1989 slayings of 24-year-old college student Julie Grissom, her father, Tom, 55, and her 8-year-old nephew, Sean, in the elder Grissom’s Southern Hills Beth Lane home.

Rolling was never tried for the slayings, but an arrest warrant from the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office has remained prepared since the early 1990s, requiring only a judge’s signature.

“Nothing has changed," Shreveport police Lt. Danny Fogger told The Times in 2000. "We’ve long had enough evidence to arrest him.”

But the state of Florida made it clear Rolling would never be extradited to a state where he might be convicted and sentenced to a jail term. That could set up a separate legal battle over whether he could be forcibly returned to a state where he faced death.

In an interview with Florida’s WFLA-TV in the mid-1990s, Rolling admitted responsibility for the Grissom murders, but stopped just shy of confessing. He also said he killed a person for each year he served in prison; the total of the Shreveport and Gainesville murders is eight.

Rolling's connection with the Florida slayings was revealed through the work of Shreveport police detectives, who notified Florida investigators that Rolling, arrested in Florida for an unrelated armed robbery, was the suspect in the Grissom slayings. That prompted a check of his DNA against that found at the college slayings. There was a match.

Rolling, who also was the suspect in the shooting of his father here before moving to Florida, blamed his actions on childhood abuse and the way he was treated in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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