Former Gainesville Officer: Murders In 1990 Touched All
POSTED: 7:23 pm EDT October 11, 2006
UPDATED: 7:53 pm EDT October 11, 2006
A former Gainesville officer who knows a great deal about a serial killer on death row for murdering five college students said the murder spree 16 years ago changed her life forever.
Channel 4's Dan Leveton talked with former Gainesville Police Public Information Officer Sadie Darnell who remembers the time of the murders vividly.
Danny Rolling is scheduled to die in late October for the murder of five University of Florida students. His victims ranged in age from 17 to 23, and one of them, Christi Powell, was from Jacksonville.
The case was one in the area could ever forget, especially those who worked for the Gainesville police department in 1990.
"The tension was palpable. It was something that was present every minute of the day," Darnell said.
She had only been on the job as the PIO for the Gainesville Police Department for a few months when murders began.
"When the situation of the series of murders reached its peak, it was complete panic in Gainesville. There was not one area that was untouched," Darnell said.
Danny Rolling was sentenced to death for the murders of five students in Gainesville.
Born and raised in Gainesville, the crimes also altered Darnell's life in August of 1990.
First, Sandra Larson and Christi Powell were found dead days before the Fall school semester began. The next day, Christa Hoyt, and a day later Tracy Paules and Manny Taboada became victims.
"For me it was when Tracy and Manny were found. That's when I thought, 'this is really something that is so unusual and different it must be they call the serial murder phenomenon and it's in our midst,'" Darnell said.
The tension remained in the community for months, until Rolling was connected to a similar murder in Louisiana and arrested in Marion County.
A DNA test confirmed he was the killer.
Darnell said her first thoughts when Rolling was arrested were of relief that there would be an end to the murder spree.
A memorial wall for the victims is located in Gainesville. Rolling said she kept the wall up for the first 10 years and said the memorial is extremely important.
"The murders, serial murder can happen anywhere, anytime and there's no sense of shame in a community when it happens. The sense of shame comes when a community does not pull together," Darnell said.
Darnell said she had been considering whether to attended Rolling's execution, but she decided not to go because she said he probably wants people there for the attention and she will not give it to him.
September 23, 2006: Governor Signs Gainesville Killer's Death Warrant