Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

Desperate for Details

Within minutes back-up had arrived, as many as twenty law enforcement personnel, including Chief of Police Wayland Clifton.  Following closely on their heels was the media.  Lieutenant Sadie Darnell was given the task of being media spokesperson.  All she could tell them was that two young women had been murdered after someone apparently forced their way through the door, some time between 11:30 p.m. August 23 and 4: 00 p.m. August 26.

Long before the first headlines could be printed, word of the murders had spread through the Williamsburg Village Apartments.  Although the police had not publicly released their names, the crowds that had gathered were soon whispering that the girls were freshmen, one from Palm Beach and the other from Jacksonville.  No one knew them.  All wondered how this could have happened without anybody hearing anything.  One neighbor would recall that he had heard someone showering and playing loud music early on Friday morning, it was George Michael's 'Faith.'  Then there had been a loud banging sound; he assumed that the girl's had been hanging pictures on the wall.

Spectators watched as a young woman walked from her car toward the building where the two victims had been found.  She had been out of town over the weekend and had heard nothing of the day's events.  When she approached the door to her building the uniformed officer on duty asked her name.  When she told him it was Elsa Streppe, he called a plain-clothes officer over.  Referring to a notebook, the two men talked in whispered tones.  Elsa was escorted from the scene and taken to the Alachua County Crisis Center.  Once inside she was told that her roommates, Christina Powell and Sonja Larson had been murdered.  She almost collapsed from the shock.  It was some time before it struck her just how closely she had come to meeting the same fate as her two friends.

As police continued to work into the night, questioning other residents, checking for fingerprints and other clues, further details of the crimes began to circulate, one of the girls had been mutilated somehow, something to do with her breasts.  The fear and panic began to spread as the story traveled beyond the apartment block to the rest of the community.

Before police had even finished packing up and sealing the area they were called to another site where they were awaited by deputies Keith O'Hara and Gail Barber from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.


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