Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

Tracy & Manny

The victims were Tracy Inez Paules and Manuel R. Taboada, both 23 years old.  Friends since high school, they decided to share the two bedroom ground-floor unit at Gatorwood Apartments when Manuel (Manny's) previous roommate had moved out.  Manny, a six-foot-three-inch athlete, weighing over 200 pounds, seemed to Tracy's parents a good choice as a roommate. With Manny in residence, Tracy's parents would not have to worry so much about their daughter living off-campus.  They were wrong.

Manuel Taboada
Manuel Taboada

It had been 7 o'clock on Tuesday morning when one of Manny's friends, Tommy Carrol, arrived at Gatorwood Apartments to check on Manny and Tracy at the request of a mutual friend who was living out of the area.  Khris Pascarella had been trying to contact Manny by phone since Sunday and was concerned that they were still not answering.  He called the manager and arranged for someone to meet Tommy to check the apartment.  She sent Christopher Smith, her maintenance man.

When Tommy told Christopher that there had been no answer to his knocking, he took out his master key and opened the door.  They didn't need to enter to see what had happened.  Tracy's naked, bloodied body was lying in the hallway between the two bedrooms.  Sitting on the floor above her head was a dark-colored bag.  Christopher slammed the door shut and locked it.  When he returned five minutes later with the police, the door was unlocked and the bag was gone.

Sergeant Alan Baxter and other investigators from the ACSO who had worked on the crime scene at Christa's apartment were present here as well.  There were no mutilations this time; perhaps the killer had been interrupted before he could complete his sadistic plans.  Tracy was found with a towel placed under her hips and her hair was wet.  Manny had been found in his bed where his attack had begun and ended.  From the wounds on his arms the police concluded that he had put up quite a struggle before his death.

With the discovery of the fourth and fifth bodies, Gainesville came under the spotlight of the national media.  Soon comparisons were being made.  The killer's penchant for young college students brought back memories of Ted Bundy, Florida's most notorious serial killer.  Bundy had been sent to the electric chair only the year before, after he was convicted of a series of murders of young college students in the Tallahassee area during 1978.  One report highlighted the similarity between the Gainesville killings and the world's most infamous killer, "Jack the Ripper."  Stories about "The Gainesville Ripper" quickly became the media's latest draw card, guaranteeing soaring sales records.

The police were soon inundated by calls, thousands of possible suspects were identified.  Ex-boyfriends and husbands were named as strong candidates.  Anyone who had behaved 'strangely' was likely to be reported.  All of them had to be checked and crosschecked for any possible links to the killings.  One name seemed to be coming up again and again.  It looked like the police had their first real suspect in a strange young man by the name of Edward Lewis Humphrey.


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