Danny Rolling

Daniel Harold Rolling (May 26, 1954 – October 25, 2006), known as The Gainesville Ripper, was an American serial killer who murdered five students in Gainesville, Florida, over four days in late August 1990. Rolling later confessed to raping several of his victims, committing a triple homicide in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attempting to murder his father in May 1990. In total, Rolling confessed to killing eight people.[1] Rolling was sentenced to death for the five Gainesville murders in 1994. He was executed by lethal injection in 2006.

Danny Rolling
Danny Rolling.jpg
Rolling in 1991
Daniel Harold Rolling

(1954-05-26)May 26, 1954
DiedOctober 25, 2006(2006-10-25) (aged 52)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Other names"The Gainesville Ripper"
Michael Kennedy Jr.
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyDeath sentence
Span of crimes
November 4, 1989–August 27, 1990
CountryUnited States
State(s)Louisiana, Florida
Date apprehended
September 7, 1990

Early yearsEdit

Danny Rolling was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. His father was a Shreveport police officer named James Rolling, who told Danny that he was unwanted from birth, and who abused his mother, Claudia, and his brother, Kevin. In one incident, Danny's mother went to the hospital after claiming her husband tried to make her cut herself with a razor blade. She made repeated attempts to leave her husband but always returned. In one example of the senior Rolling's sense of discipline, he pinned Danny to the ground, handcuffed him, then had police take his son away because he was embarrassed by him.[2]

As a teenager and young adult, Rolling was arrested several times for robberies in Georgia and was caught spying on a woman getting dressed. As an adult, he had trouble trying to assimilate into society and hold down a steady job. At one point, Rolling worked as a waiter at Pancho's restaurant in Shreveport. In May 1990, he attempted to kill his father during a family argument in which his father lost an eye and an ear.[2]

Serial killingsEdit

In August 1990, Rolling murdered five students (one student from Santa Fe College and four from the University of Florida) during a burglary and robbery spree in Gainesville, Florida. He mutilated his victims' bodies, decapitating one. He then posed them, sometimes using mirrors.

In the early morning hours of Friday, August 24, Rolling broke into the apartment shared by 17-year-old university freshmen Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. Finding Powell asleep on the downstairs couch, he stood over her briefly but did not wake her up, choosing instead to explore the upstairs bedroom where Larson was also asleep. Rolling murdered Larson, first taping her mouth shut to stifle her screams and then stabbing her to death. She died while trying to fend him off.[3]

Rolling then went back downstairs, taped Powell's mouth shut, bound her wrists together behind her back and threatened her with a knife as he cut her clothes off. He then raped her and forced her face-down onto the floor, where he stabbed her five times in the back. Rolling posed the bodies in sexually provocative positions. He took a shower before leaving the apartment.[3]

A day later, on Saturday, August 25, Rolling broke into the apartment of 18-year-old Christa Hoyt, prying open a sliding glass door with a Ka-Bar knife and a screwdriver. Finding she was not home, he waited in the living room for her to return. At 11 a.m., Hoyt entered the apartment and Rolling surprised her from behind, placing her in a chokehold. After she had been subdued, he taped her mouth shut, bound her wrists together and led her into the bedroom, where he cut the clothes from her body and raped her. As in the Powell murder, he forced her face-down and stabbed her in the back, rupturing her heart. After arriving back at his campsite, Rolling could not find his wallet. Thinking he may have lost it at the murder scene, he returned there, at which time he decided to decapitate Hoyt's body and pose her head on a shelf facing the corpse, adding to the shock of whoever discovered her.[3]

By now the murders had attracted widespread media attention and many students were taking extra precautions, such as changing their daily routines and sleeping together in groups. Because the spree was happening so early in the fall semester, some students withdrew their enrollment or transferred to other schools. Tracy Paules, who was 23 years old, was living with her roommate Manny Taboada, also 23. On Monday, August 27, Rolling broke into the apartment by prying open the sliding glass door with the same tools he had used previously. Rolling found Taboada asleep in one of the bedrooms and, after a struggle with the young man, eventually killed him.[3]

Hearing the commotion, Paules went down the hall to Taboada's bedroom and saw Rolling. She attempted to barricade herself in her bedroom, but Rolling broke through the door. Rolling taped her mouth and wrists, cut off her clothing and raped her, before turning her over and stabbing her three times in the back. Rolling posed Paules' body but left Taboada's in the same position in which he had died.[3]

With the exception of Taboada, all of the victims were petite Caucasian brunettes with brown eyes. Although law enforcement initially had very few leads, police did identify two suspects; one a University of Florida student who had a history of mental illness and bore numerous scars on his face from a car accident, making him an ideal image when discussing news about the investigation. His photo was shown repeatedly by media outlets. Authorities publicly cleared him of all charges after Rolling's arrest. The other suspect was also later cleared.

Shreveport murders and tip about RollingEdit

Louisiana police alerted Florida authorities to an unsolved triple murder in Shreveport on November 4, 1989. Detectives noted that there were similarities between the Gainesville murders and those of 55-year-old William Grissom, his 24-year-old daughter Julie, and his eight-year-old grandson Sean. The family had been attacked in their home as they were preparing for dinner. Afterwards, Julie Grissom's body had been mutilated, cleaned, and posed.

Don Maines, an investigator on the case with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, traveled to Shreveport, because of similarities between the murders committed in Gainesville and murders committed in Shreveport Louisiana. [4] They included: posing of the victims; tape residue on victim's body; and vinegar used to clean the body. Maines said they tested the body fluids from the perpetrator in Shreveport and found that this person also had type B blood. He called the match to the evidence in Gainesville a “revelation” in the case.

Shortly after Maines’ trip to Shreveport (in November 1990), a Shreveport resident, Cindy Juracich, called Crime Stoppers and reported Danny Rolling was possibly connected to the murders in both cities. [5] Three months earlier (in August 1990), Cindy heard a news report about a string of murders, as she traveled through the Florida Panhandle. The report made her think about Danny Rolling, who she met at her Louisiana hometown church, and his possible link to these three other Shreveport murders. Rollings had said deeply disturbing statements to both her and her then-husband, Steven Dobbin. “He’d come over every night for a while, and then one night, Steven came in and he goes, ‘He’s got to go,’” Juracich said. Dobbin told her that Rolling had told him he had a problem, Juracich said. “I said, ‘What kind of problem,’” Juracich said, “[and Steven said], ‘He likes to stick knives into people.’” Juracich said she dismissed these comments when she heard about them because she didn’t want to believe that Rolling could be responsible for triple murders in Shreveport. Danny had also told her, “... ‘One day, I’m going to leave this town and I’m going to go where the girls are beautiful and I can just lay in the sun and watch beautiful women all day’”. [6] News of Gainesville murders haunted Juracich, so she finally contacted police in November, based on her hunch of Rolling's connection to the murders in both cities. “It would not let me rest,” she said. “One day, I picked up the phone, I called Crime Stoppers, and I said, ‘I think there’s one guy y’all need to investigate -- Danny Rolling.’” [7]

The investigators responded to the Rolling tip and began an investigation which quickly found Rolling, who had been arrested on September 7, 1990, for an Ocala supermarket robbery. The robbery had been committed 10 days after Paules' and Manny Taboada’s bodies were found. Rolling was being held in the Marion County Jail, that was 40 miles south of Gainesville. As part of investigation, investigators determined that Rolling had type B blood like the suspect in both the Gainesville and Shreveport murders.

Once Florida investigators realized that Rolling had multiple convictions for armed robbery, they realized he could have also been responsible for the bank robbery that occurred on the day that Christa Hoyt’s body was found. They returned to the evidence locker, where the gun, screwdriver, bag of money and cassette player had been stored. Finally, they listened to the tape.[8] They also found his tools matched marks that were left at the Gainesville murder scenes. The small one-man camp where he was living was in a wooded area located near the apartment complexes frequented by students; there, investigators discovered audio diaries he had made alluding to the crimes.

Charges and trialEdit

In November 1991, Rolling was charged with several counts of murder.

Rolling was brought to trial nearly four years after the murders. He claimed his motive was to become a "superstar" similar to Ted Bundy. In 1994, before his trial could get underway, Rolling unexpectedly pled guilty to all charges. Subsequently, State Attorney Rod Smith presented the penalty phase of the prosecution. During his trial, Court TV conducted an interview with Rolling's mother from her home, during which his father could be heard shouting off-camera.

On April 20, 1994, Rolling was sentenced to death.[9] Rolling was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and paraphilia.[10][11][12]


Shortly before he was executed in Florida for the series of killings in Gainesville, Rolling claimed responsibility for the Shreveport murders, handing his spiritual adviser Rev. Mike Hudspeth and Florida police a handwritten confession and apology. In a written statement made shortly before his execution, Rolling confessed to the murders of the Grissom family in Shreveport.[13][14] Rolling had a last meal of lobster tail. He sang a gospel hymn, but made no statement immediately before his execution, which was witnessed by many of his victims' relatives.[15]

Rolling was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on October 25, 2006, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch appeal. He was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m EDT.


Memorial to the five students on the 34th Street Wall in Gainesville, first painted in 1990

Rolling has been the subject of several written works. His crime spree inspired screenwriter Kevin Williamson to pen the script of the popular 1996 slasher film Scream.

Sondra London collaborated with Rolling on The Making of a Serial Killer: The True Story of the Gainesville Murders in the Killer's Own Words.[16]

Rolling is the subject of the book Beyond Murder by John Philpin and John Donnelly. Author Kevin Given admitted that he based the serial killer David Reynolds from his novel Foul Blood on Rolling.

A 2007 independent feature film titled The Gainesville Ripper, based on accounts of the killings, was shot in the Gainesville and Jacksonville, Florida areas. In the film, Rolling is portrayed by Zachary Memos.[17] Rolling was also the subject of an episode of Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman, a Court TV show (transmitted as Crime Scene USA: Body of Evidence on Discovery Channel in the UK) and an episode of Forensic Factor titled Killing Spree, which originally aired on Discovery Channel Canada and was rebroadcast in America on the Science Channel.

Rolling was the subject of a 2010 episode of Cold Blood, and briefly was mentioned in a 2012 episode of Motives and Murders titled "Not Again". He was featured in a 2015 episode of Nightmare Next Door.

In 2013, TV documentary series The Real Story aired an episode profiling the movie Scream. It aired July 28, 2013 and tells the story of Rolling’s murders in graphic detail.

The book Drifter is based on the 1990 Gainesville murders.

The song Harold Rollings Hymn from the 2007 John 5 album, The Devil Knows My Name is inspired by Rolling. An episode of Murder Made Me Famous, which aired November 24, 2018, chronicled the case.[18]

The premiere episode of Mark of a Killer, titled "Posed to Kill", documented the case.[19]

In 2021, an episode of the ABC primetime true crime television series 20/20 aired the murder case.

While on death row at Florida State Prison, Rolling wrote songs and poems and drew pictures. His works have been referred to as an example of murderabilia.[by whom?][citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Rolling's confession to Shreveport murders". NBC News. October 27, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Mary S. Ryzuk (1994). The Gainesville Ripper. New York City: Dutton Books. ISBN 0-312-95324-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e Rolling v. State, 695 So. 2d 278
  4. ^ Glenn Ruppel, Sean Dooley, and Anthony Rivas (April 8, 2021). "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida". ABCNews.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Glenn Ruppel, Sean Dooley, and Anthony Rivas (April 8, 2021). "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida". ABCNews.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Glenn Ruppel,Sean Dooley, and Anthony Rivas (April 8, 2021). "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida". ABCNews.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Glenn Ruppel,Sean Dooley, and Anthony Rivas (April 8, 2021). "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida". ABCNews.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Glenn Ruppel, Sean Dooley, and Anthony Rivas (April 8, 2021). "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida". ABCNews.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Palombo, Bernadette J.; Joiner, Gary D.; Hale, W. Chris; White, Cheryl H. (March 4, 2012). Wicked Shreveport. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1614233664.
  10. ^ Fiona Steel. "Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper". TruTV. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Jim Leusner (March 18, 1994). "Danny Rolling, Serial Killer". Orlando Sentinel.
  12. ^ "Psychologist Says Rolling Suffers From Disorders". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. March 16, 1994.
  13. ^ Grayson Kamm (October 27, 2006). "Rolling Confessed to Shreveport Killings Before Execution". First Coast News. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  14. ^ Danny Rolling (October 25, 2006). "Handwritten Letter" (PDF). Gannett Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  15. ^ Lise Fisher (27 October 2006). "Danny Rolling executed for five student murders". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  16. ^ Serial Killer Danny Rolling Defends Sondra London on YouTube
  17. ^ Zachary Memos at IMDb
  18. ^ "Murder Made Me Famous 'The Gainesville Ripper'". IMDB. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  19. ^ "The Mark of a Killer 'Danny Rolling: The Gainesville Ripper'". IMDB. Retrieved January 26, 2019.

External linksEdit