Daniel Harold Rolling - The Gainesville Ripper

Brutal Rapist and Serial Killer

Daniel Rolling
Mug Shot

Daniel Harold Rolling, also known as the Gainesville Ripper, was a serial killer that murdered five college students in Gainesville, Florida and three members of a Shreveport, Louisiana family as well as attempting to murder his father. He was executed by lethal injection in 2006.

Home Environment

Rolling was born on May 26, 1954 in Shreveport, Louisiana, to James and Claudia Rolling. From the very beginning of his life his father, a Shreveport police officer, abused him and told him he was unwanted.

By the time he reached his teens his life had been so unstructured that he was unable to adapt to school or hold down jobs. The rules of society seemed to not apply to Rolling and he began burglarizing homes which he was arrested for several times in Georgia.

In May 1990 he and his father got into an argument. As the fight escalated, Rolling attempted to kill his father and pulled out a gun and shot him, but he survived, although he was less one eye and one ear. He then took off and headed to Florida.

Killing Spree

August 24, 1990

In Gainesville, Florida Rolling broke into the apartment of college students Sonja Larson, 18, and 17-year-old Christina Powell. Both girls were asleep. He attacked Sonja first, who was asleep in her upstairs bedroom. First he stabbed her chest, then taped her mouth, then as she struggled for her life, he stabbed her to death.

He then went back down stairs and taped Christina's mouth and bound her wrists behind her back.

He then cut off her clothing, raped her and stabbed her multiple times in the back, causing her death.

Deciding that he wanted to leave some kind signature, he then mutilated the bodies and posed them in sexually suggestive positions and left.

August 25, 1990

The next night Rolling broke into the apartment of Christa Hoyt, but she was not at home.

He decided to wait for her and made himself at home. When she arrived mid-morning, he crept up behind her, startling her, then attacked her, placing her in a choke-hold. After that he taped her mouth, bound her wrists and forced her into her bedroom, where he removed her clothing, raped her, then stabbed her in the back multiple times causing her death.

Then, as a way to make the scene more horrific, he sliced open her body, cut off her head and removed her nipples. When authorities arrived, they found Christa's head on a bookshelf, her torso bent at waist, on the bed and the nipples placed next to the torso.

August 27, 1990

Rolling broke into the apartment ofTracy Paules,23, and her male roommate Manny Taboada. Manny was 23 years old, heavy built and weighed about 200 pounds. He was asleep in his bedroom when Rolling attacked and killed him, but not without a fight.

When Tracy heard the noises, she went to Manny's room, but ran back to her room when she saw Rolling. She tried to block the door, Rolling and like the other young women he had killed, he bound her, removed her clothing, raped her, then stabbed her multiple times in her back.

Police theorize that Rolling was interrupted before he was able to mutilate Tracy's body.

The apartment maintenance man was called to do a welfare check after a friend of Manny's grew concerned when he failed to answer his phone. When the maintenance man opened the apartment door, he took one look at the scene, shut the door, locked it, and called the police.

He later described to the police that he saw Tracy's bloodied body on a towel in the hallway, with a black bag placed near the body. When police arrive five minutes later, the door was found unlocked and the bag was gone.

"The Profile of Serial Killer Daniel Harold Rolling Ripper"

The news media was quick to cover the murders in Gainesville, dubbing the killer as"The Gainesville Ripper." It was the beginning of the semester and thousands of students left Gainseville out fear. By September 12, the"The Gainesville Ripper" was on the front page of every newspaper.

On the Run

The following day Rolling and a drug dealer he had befriended, were walking close to where Rolling had made a small one-man camp in the nearby woods. It was also close to apartments where his victims had lived. The police spotted the two men, flashed their lights, and Rolling took off running. The officers pursued him, but stopped when they got to his campsite.

There they spotted a bag of cash covered in pink dye that belonged to the First Union National Bank which had been robbed the day before. They also found Rollings identification among other objects he had used during his murder spree. The officers did not make the connection with the murders, but they did gather it all up and later had it bagged as evidence in case he was ever charged for the bank robbery.

In the meantime, Rolling stole a car and took off to Tampa, stopping to rob a few homes on the way. He was almost captured again in Tampa after robbing a convenience store, but managed to escape on foot into the woods.

Arrest

Stealing another car, Rolling fled Tampa and headed for Ocala. On Saturday, September 8, he tried to rob a supermarket that was crowded with weekend shoppers. He forced the manager at gun point to give him what was in the store safe. Word got out that the store was being robbed and the police were contacted. This time Rolling was unable to escape and he was arrested and placed in the Marion County Jail.

Rolling was cooperative and polite with the prison personnel and his lawyer, while he waited to be indicted for the armed robbery, multiple car theft charges and several burglaries. He was going to plead guilty. Then on January 1, 1991, Rolling snapped and in a rage he ripped a toilet out of the floor and threw it across the room. His lawyer decided to withdraw the guilty plea and she sent him for a psychiatric evaluation.

The Gainesville Murder Investigation

The investigation into murders of the five college students led to one of seven main suspects. Edward Humphrey was 18 years old and and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

During the same time that the students were murdered, Humphrey was suffering from a bipolar flareup after skipping his medication which resulted in aggressive behavior and violent outbursts.

Humphrey had been living in the same apartment complex as Tracy and Manny, but he was asked to leave by the apartment manager after fighting with his roommates. He also harassed people living in the apartment complex across the street. Other similar incidents of Humphrey's combative nature surfaced and investigators decided to put a surveillance team on him.

A side effect of Humphrey's bipolar condition was extreme paranoia and the feeling that Satan was following him. With the police watching his every step which included helicopter surveillance, his agitation from the feeling being followed intensified.

On October 30, 1990, he had an argument with grandmother that grew into a physical altercation with him striking her one time. This was a gift to the police. They arrested Humphrey and had his bail set at $1 million, even though his grandmother had dropped all charges the same day and it was his first offense.

Investigators then went about trying to find evidence that linked Humphrey to the murders. They also had to deal the news media who had pounced on the activity and were reporting that the number one suspect in the Gainesville murders had been arrested.

At trial, Humphrey was found guilty of assault and was sentenced to22 months in Chattahoochie State Hospital, home to mostly convicted killer. It wasn't until September 18, 1991 that he would be released. There was never any evidence found that Humphrey had anything to do with the murder. The investigation was back to square one.

You've Got Your Man and Maybe Ours

In Shreveport, Louisiana investigators were trying solve a triple murder fromNovember, 1989. William "Tom" Grissom, 55, his daughter Julie, 24, and his 8-year-old grandson Sean were murdered. There were several strong similarities to the Gainesville murders including that Julie's body was cleaned and then posed similar to the way the victims in Gainesville were left.

The Shreveport investigators contacted theGainesville task force and alerted them to the similarities and informed them that their prime suspect for Grissom murders was Danny Rolling, who happened to be in the Marion County Jail for bank robbery.

DNA was collected from Rolling after he had dental work performed and it matched DNA from the Gainesville murders, but Rolling would not be charged until June 1992.

Robbery Convictions

Rolling was convicted of three burglaries in Tampa for which he was sentenced to three life terms plus 170 years. He received an additional life sentence plus 30 years for robbing the First Union Bank. Knowing that he would never walk out of prison, he tried to do the next best thing and escape.

Confession

He befriended an inmate named Bobby Lewis who was infamous for escaping out of death row at the Florida prison by putting on a guard's uniform that had been smuggled in and then walking out of the prison door.

Over time, Rolling told Lewis specific details about the Gainesville murders. Then on January 31, 1993 Rolling decided to confess to the murders four weeks before his trial date. But the format that he used to make the confession was bizarre.

Bobby Lewis was at the meeting acting as Rollings "confessor" and when the investigators asked a question, Rolling would whisper the answer to Lewis, and Lewis would repeat what he said to the investigators. After giving detailed answers regarding the Gainesville murders, Rolling then, through Lewis, explained that he had multiple personalities: Danny (him) and another of Danny who he called Jessie James, then thre was "Ynnad," which is Danny spelled backwards and"Gemini," who was the most evil and the responsible for the murders.

Before the interview was brought to a close, Rolling said that the plan was to kill eight people. One for each year he had spent in prison and that after the Gainesville trial was over, he would "clear up" the Shreveport murders.

The investigators commented later that the personality named Gemini was likely taken from the movie "Exorcist III" which Rolling had gone to see on the night before the murders. In the movie the killer's name is Gemini. It was also Rollings astrological sign.

Not long after Rolling's confession, Lewis was moved to another ward and Rolling felt that he had been played.

Trial

Three weeks before the trial, Rolling told his lawyer that he wanted to plead guilty. His lawyer warned against it, but Rolling was determined. He did not want to sit there while the pictures of the crime scene were shown to the jury.

When it came time for the trial, Rolling plead guilty. The penalty phase followed beginning with the prosecution.Rolling was sentenced to the death penalty on each count.

Execution

Before being executed, Rolling confessed to the triple murder in Shreveport.

Rolling was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on October 25, 2006. He was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m EDT.