Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

Christa Hoyt

Gail Barber had spent the earlier part of the evening with her husband, Ray Barber, after he had made the gruesome discovery of Christina and Sonja's bodies.  She would have liked to stay with him longer but she was on the roster for the midnight shift.  She hadn't been on long before dispatch had called to ask them to drop by Christa Leigh Hoyt's apartment, just in case.  Eighteen-year-old Christa worked the midnight shift as a records clerk at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.  She hadn't arrived for work and wasn't answering her phone.  It was 12:30 a.m.

Gail knew Christa well and was sure that there would be some logical explanation for why she hadn't called in.  The chances of two people from the same family being present at two separate murder discoveries in such a short space of time would be just too coincidental.

Christa Hoyt
Christa Hoyt

When O'Hara and Barber knocked on Christa's front door and there was no answer, they were almost relieved.  She's probably left for work already, they told themselves. Then they saw her car, an older model Nissan Sentra, parked nearby.  They knocked again, and then tried the door.  It was locked.  Hearing the noise, manager Elbert Hoover came out to investigate.  The three of them went out to the back of the apartment.  Hoover knew something was wrong the moment he saw that the gate had been damaged and the chain-link fence was down.  As O'Hara and Barber went further into the backyard, they told Hoover to wait around the front for them.  Once they established that there was no one in the yard, they tried the glass sliding door.  It was locked from the inside.

They noticed that the bamboo shades over the door did not reach to the floor.  They bent down on their hands and knees to peer under the curtain.  Through the beam of the flashlight they could see what appeared to be a naked body seated on the edge of the bed.  It was bent over at the waist with a small pool of blood at the feet, which were still clad in shoes and socks.  They came to the shocking realization that the body didn't have a head.

The two officers ran back to their patrol car to notify the station.  It was 1:00 a.m.  Moments later the first of the investigating team had arrived.  Barber and O'Hara quickly briefed Sergeant Baxter and Lieutenant Nobles, telling them that they had heard water running in the apartment.  As there was a strong possibility that the killer was still inside, O'Hara and Barber were told to take up positions around the outside of the apartment, while Baxter and Nobles waited for more back-up to arrive.  It was half an hour before they were ready to enter the building.

When they entered through the front door they moved slowly, ready for anything.  The bathroom was first.  They could hear the drip, drip of the shower but there was no one there.  There were bloodstains on the floor of the shower.  When they left the bathroom they saw Christa's lifeless head facing them, propped up on a bookshelf in the bedroom.  In the bedroom, they saw the headless corpse of the once beautiful Christa, sitting at the end of the bed.  On the bed next to her were her two nipples.  Barely able to breathe, they checked under the bed and in the closets.  Confident that the killer had long gone, the two officers made their way back outside.

As they walked out into the courtyard they saw that the Gainesville Police Chief, Wayland Clifton, had arrived from the Williamsburg Village Apartments, along with many of the other officers.  Although they had no jurisdiction in this area, they needed to know for sure whether the murders were in any way linked.

With the preliminary examination completed it was time for the body to be moved.  Alachua County's chief investigator gave the order.  Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw next.  One of the officers let out a low growl when Christa was laid back.  Apart from the breast mutilation, she had been carefully sliced from the breastbone to the pubic bone.


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