The mass murderer who caused that fear in 1990 is due to be executed today.
By JESSICA RIFFEL, Special to the Times-Union
October 24 - Danny Rolling's scheduled execution today has sparked memories in long-time Gainesville residents who vividly remember the terror they felt in 1990 when Rolling murdered five students. But many current University of Florida students do not recognize the name of the man who killed four UF students and one Santa Fe Community College student.
Jarrod Doll, 20, said he doesn't know much about Rolling or the murders that occurred when he was 4, so the execution today doesn't mean much to him. But his mother, Louie Doll, said she remembers the sleepless nights she spent living in Gainesville that fall. She worked as a nurse, living with her husband and her three young sons in the northwest part of town - several miles from where the murders took place. "Even though we knew it was students, I felt just as scared," she said. "He was after small, dark-haired women, which I am. ... It heightened my concern, and it made me more nervous." Even today, when she sees girls jogging alone at night, she remembers the events that made most Gainesville residents too afraid to walk or jog alone. "Your fear never leaves you," she said.
| A panel on a wall of graffiti on the western edge of the University of Florida campus lists the names of Danny Rolling's murder victims. Several years ago, the UF Interfraternity Council took on the task of preserving the panel. |
Scott Miller, a UF psychology professor, said the recent newspaper articles leading up to Rolling's execution have reminded him of the fear he felt for his daughter, Erica, who had just transferred to UF when the murders happened. "Nobody can imagine the [victims'] parents' perspectives, but if you were a parent in this town at that time, you can come closer," said Miller, who moved to Gainesville in 1977. "It really was horrible."I was living in the Brunswick/St. Simons Island, Georgia during the time of the murders in Gainesville during 1990. I vividly recall the long sleepless nights (my girlfriend was a coed in a nearby college), TV news reports and worries everyone in the region had at the time. Danny Rolling was a sick, sadistic individual -- going so far as to cut one girl's head off and place it on the bookshelf in her apartment. Many have deserved the ultimate punishment for their crimes, but none more than Daniel Rolling. I'm glad to know that the parents of the five young ladies brutally murdered by Rolling have some final closure.
Erica Miller, who lived near UF's campus with her boyfriend, moved into her parents' home for a few weeks. Miller said he locked every door and used wood to double enforce sliding glass doors. Her father said he doesn't feel anything will be changed by Rolling's execution today, but he said he thinks the parents deserve a resolution to 16 years of pain. "I used to be more liberal on this issue than I am now," he said. "I think being a parent of a college student in 1990 changed me."
But for many students, who were in preschool in 1990, the murders are less personal. Instead, they say that the recent coverage of Rolling has made them think about the legal system and the death penalty. Most only know about the murders from what they've heard from parents and friends and the scene painted on a section of a wall along Southwest 34th Street, which states "Remember 1990" and lists the victims. The Interfraternity Council at UF maintains that section of the wall, hoping it will inform new students and perpetuate the memories of the victims: Tracy Paules, Manuel Taboada, Christi Powell, Sonja Larson and Christa Hoyt. Powell graduated from Episcopal High School in Jacksonville.
But many people who lived in Gainesville during the murders don't need a daily reminder. They think about the victims and their families and the scary, uncertain era in Gainesville - an era they won't forget.