Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

The Killer

As the police began their surveillance of Edward Humphrey on August 28, 1990, the real killer, Danny Harold Rolling, narrowly escaped arrest on bank robbery charges.  He had been with Tony Danzy near the woods on Archer Road, near where Christa Hoyt had been murdered.  Rolling had made a campsite on the afternoon of the first murders.  He had been on the way back to the campsite with Danzy, a new friend who supplied him with drugs, when the police had noticed them.  Danzy stopped to wait for the police but Rolling ran.  As the two officers pursued Rolling they came upon his campsite.  Here they found a number of items which would later link Rolling to the five murders, but at this time the only item that caught the attention of police was a bag of cash covered in pink dye.  The perpetrator of the robbery of the First Union National Bank on the previous day had been identified.  Unfortunately he was not suspected as the "Gainesville Ripper" and his belongings were stored away in case they caught him later.

When Danzy and Rolling met the next day, Danzy threatened to call the police.  Rolling was on the run again and made plans to leave the area.  With no car and no money he set about acquiring them the only way he knew how.  He burgled the apartment of student Christopher Osborne where he stole the keys to Christopher's 1978 Buick Regal and drove toward Tampa.  There he burgled several houses but failed to achieve anything except to leave a trail of evidence, including fingerprints and hair, to help the authorities convict him.  He was almost caught as he departed from a convenience store robbery, but managed to run into the woods, once again eluding capture, but his luck was about to run out.

Rolling stole another car and headed for Ocala where he attempted a daring robbery of a Winn Dixie supermarket during the peak of Saturday afternoon crowds on September 8, 1990.  While he forced the manager at gunpoint to empty the office safe, the store's bookkeeper was on her way back to work.  She phoned the police when she learned at the entrance to the supermarket that they were being robbed.  The police were well on their way by the time Rolling left, heading to his get-away car.  The store manager, Randy Wilson, had followed Rolling as he left the shopping center and was able to tell the police exactly where he was.  As Rolling backed out of the parking area, the police were already in pursuit and a high-speed chase began.  When Rolling crashed his car he fled on foot into a nearby office but as he left through a rear door the police were waiting for him.  He made one last attempt to escape their clutches but it ended in failure and he was arrested.

Three days after Rolling's arrest on September 11, 1990, the "Gainesville Ripper" story was dropped from the front page for the first time.  The community of Gainesville, no longer under threat, wanted to forget the horror of that gruesome week of murder.  On October 10, the day Edward Humphrey was convicted of the assault charges against his grandmother, Rolling sent his mother a Christmas card from the Marion County Jail, where he was being held, awaiting an indictment for the Winn Dixie robbery and the many burglaries he had committed prior to his arrest.

From the moment of his arrest, Rolling had passively accepted his fate and been totally co-operative with police and prison authorities, but, on 1 January 1991, he revealed another side to his personality.  In a fit of anger he ripped a toilet from its mounting and threw it across the day-room.  Believing that there was a lot more to Danny Rolling than initially thought, his defense attorney, Victoria Lisarralde, asked for psychological tests and moved to withdraw the guilty plea on Rolling's armed robbery charges.


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