Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

'Number One Suspect' in Custody

He had a violent argument with his grandmother that ended in him striking her.  His mother called the police, who convinced Elna that she must sign a complaint charging aggravated assault.  Humphrey was immediately arrested and taken to Regional Medical Center for treatment.  FBI agents arrived soon after and their interrogations began.  He was questioned extensively for twenty-four hours without an attorney.  When the public defender assigned to Edward arrived, he was sent away.  The agents told him that he would not be needed as no arrest had been made in regard to the Gainesville killings, as there was no evidence.   He was there only on the assault charges.  Although Edward's grandmother dropped the charges against her grandson that night, he continued to be held.

The next morning the police reinstated the assault charges and Edward was sent to Brevard County Jail at Sharpes.  Bail was set at $1 million, for a minor assault charge by a first time offender, and Edward awaited his trial, set for October.  Almost as soon as his arrest was made, the media blitz against Edward began.  A mugshot of Edward was printed and all reports implied that he was the Gainesville killer.  When police reported that Humphrey was a good suspect, the media headlines declared him as "Number One Suspect."  The police did nothing to set the record straight with the media despite the fact that they still had as many as a dozen other suspects.  Interestingly, the only name that was released to the media was Edward Humphrey.

With no evidence to link Humphrey to the Gainesville killings, it took the police four days to convince a judge to grant a warrant to search Humphrey's person, apartment and car.  They also wanted to search the Hlavaty house as Humphrey may have left some clues there.  The warrant finally granted, they spent several hours at Humphrey's apartment where nothing was found which they could use as evidence.  They had the same result at Elna Hlavaty's home where police had descended at 9:00 a.m. on the same day.  Elna had not been home when they arrived so a locksmith was called and the warrant read to an empty house.  The elderly woman was so distressed when she arrived home to find police ransacking her house that an ambulance was called.

Despite the complete lack of evidence to link Edward to the killings, the police continued to view him as their prime suspect.  When there were no more murders after his arrest they became more convinced, along with the media.  The public perception that the police had their killer quickly spread.  Students who had fled in terror, returned and gradually people stopped traveling and living in large groups.  Interest in the murders began to wane and on 12 September 1990 the story did not appear on the front page for the first time since the murders were first announced.

In October, Edward Humphrey was sent to trial on the assault charges.  Although his grandmother testified that Edward had not struck her, Edward was sentenced to 22 months in Chattahoochie State Hospital where most of the inmates were convicted murderers.  He was not released until September 18, 1991 and was still considered a suspect until after Danny Rolling, the real killer, was sentenced in 1994.  Up until this time his name was never officially cleared, nor did he receive any public apology for the pain and anguish caused to him and his family.


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