Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Protesters, media gather near prison for Rolling's execution

Associated Press

STARKE, Fla. - As serial killer Danny Rolling awaited execution Wednesday, the scene outside the Florida State Prison was eerily familiar to the evening more than 17 years ago when serial killer Ted Bundy died in Florida's electric chair.

More than 100 protesters gathered near dozens of death penalty supporters, curious onlookers and journalists on the barren cow pasture across from the prison where Rolling, 52, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. Rolling was convicted of the 1990 hunting-knife slayings of five college students.

"They're doing a good thing," said Randy Hicks, a 35-year-old Lake Butler truck driver and former prison guard who occasionally watched over Rolling. "This guy deserves it. It's very overdue."

Death penalty opponents, who were cordoned off in a separate area by police tape, said the execution only served to provide Rolling additional attention. One group briefly held hands in a circle and sang quietly.

"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. "He will now enjoy celebrity status courtesy of a high profile state execution. Lock him up, throw away the key and let him die alone and unremembered."

Rolling terrorized the north central Florida town of Gainesville when he mutilated and murdered the college students - just 19 months after Bundy's execution in January of 1989.

Bundy, suspected in the deaths and disappearances of 36 women, was electrocuted in the same death chamber where Rolling will die.

Police ended a massive manhunt in the case after they discovered that DNA from Rolling, already jailed for a supermarket robbery, linked him to the killings.

Rolling pleaded guilty to the slayings in 1994, shocking the courtroom on the first day of his trial.

In a 2000 letter to The Associated Press, Rolling recalled the years he served in prison in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi before coming to Florida.

"A mangy dog gets more consideration than what I received," he wrote.

But Rolling added: "Any complaint I may have pales in comparison to the terrible wrong I inflicted upon good people. I stand in the shadow of their suffering. If it is to be mercy, then I shall be eternally grateful. If it to be the wrath of vengeance, then God grant me the strength to face what I must."