Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper

'The Gainesville Ripper'

The most important evidence needed to confirm that Danny Rolling was the "Gainesville Ripper" was a DNA match with body fluids found at the crime scenes.  To achieve this end Rolling was moved from his cell while prison officials collected a number of his personal belongings and his bedding.  One of Rolling's teeth, extracted by the prison dentist only the day before, and hair left when Rolling had his haircut, were also included in the items sent to the FDLE in Ocala.

Concerned that these items might be ruled as inadmissible in the future, State Attorney, Len Register, insisted that new blood and hair samples be taken from Rolling with a warrant.  Another warrant was issued for all of Rolling's personal belongings.  Once all the necessary evidence was collected it was shipped to the FDLE laboratories in Jacksonville.  The test results provided a few days later irrefutably established the link between Danny Rolling and the three Gainesville murder scenes.

It did not take the media long to learn of the task force's new prime suspect and the stories revealing Danny Rolling's checkered  past began to proliferate.  Every aspect of his life came under public scrutiny; his childhood with an abusive father and submissive mother; his daughter from his marriage that had ended in divorce; his problems in school since the third grade; his dismissal from the Air Force for drug and alcohol problems; his arrest for voyeurism during his three year marriage; the eight years spent in prison on a number of robbery charges; the shooting of his father during an argument and his subsequent flight to Florida, until his arrival in Gainesville.  As reporters from all over the country delved into Rolling's past, so did the task force.  By the time the case was ready to go to court police had collected over 3000 items of evidence.

As Rolling awaited the grand jury hearing to determine whether he would be indicted on the Gainesville murder charges, he was brought before court on a number of other charges.  In July he was indicted for both the First Union National Bank robbery and the Ocala Winn Dixie robbery.  For the latter he was found guilty in August 1991 and given a life sentence in September.  During September and October he was found guilty on a string of burglary, stealing and robbery charges.  By the time the grand jury began hearing evidence in the Gainesville murders case, Rolling was already facing four life terms.  During this time, Rolling attempted to commit suicide several times but he never succeeded and he lived to face the grand jury.


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