Wednesday, October 25, 2006

UF alumni share thoughts about Rolling execution

Angela Sachitano
Last updated on: 10/25/2006 6:23:14 PM

GAINESVILLE: After spending the last 12 years on death row, convicted killer Danny Rolling was executed Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to murdering five students at the University of Florida 16 years ago. Two Fort Myers residents who attended the University of Florida at the time of the murders were willing to share their stories.

The crime spree left residents of Gainesville, and those around much of the state, in fear for several weeks. Florida Governor Jeb Bush says he regrets it has taken so long for Rolling to be put to death.

"He is the poster child, if you will, of why there should be a death penalty; atrocious crimes committed. It's more than appropriate for him to receive the sentence he received," said Bush.

Many people say that it is hard to comprehend what it would have been like for the thousands of students living in Gainesville at the time of the murders. One Fort Myers couple says that they were around when it all happened and they were willing to share their story.

Though it has been 16 years since the murders took place, former University of Florida students Lee and Stefanie Cutshall say that the memories still haunt them.

"It happened day after day. You were in shock, in a stop mode," said Lee.

The murders happened during the first week of fall classes. At a time when football and fraternity parties were on the minds of most American college students, Lee and Stefanie, and thousands of others in Gainesville, were locking their doors, staying inside, and some left Gainesville all together.

"They said they were all petite brunettes and mom said, 'You are a brunette.' That's when they made the phone call to come home for a while," said Stefanie.

Stefanie left Gainesville, but Lee stayed only to learn about a fourth victim. He says it was someone he knew - the next door neighbor of his best friend.

"He called me and told me they had found his neighbor, it was that girl. That's when you realize how close it is, how personal it is," said Lee.

On Wenesday, the day of Rolling's execution, even though it is 16 years later, the Cutshalls say they sill have no pity for Rolling.

"What he did was cruel and unusual. It was vicious. What they are doing to him, lethal injection, that's too humane," said Stefanie.

Though that chapter of their life will soon have some closure, the Cutshalls say that the bond shared between all University of Florida students will never die.

"People still honor them. It's one of those things that is important to the history of Gainesville," said Stefanie.

Rolling was the third inmate to be put to death in five weeks.