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Killer of eight Danny Rolling, 'The Gainesville Ripper', is executed

A photograph of downtown Gainesville, Florida, USA
Image: | Above: A photograph of downtown Gainesville, Florida, USA


Danny Rolling earned his Ripper status with the savage and sick mutilations on five students in a killing spree that lasted just one weekend. His hunting ground was the university town of Gainesville in August 1990. Such was the horror to the killings that a suspect and scapegoat was found within the week, a man with a disturbed history, Edward Humphrey. But the man they were after had had a truly terrible childhood and was like a checklist of how nature and nurture create a serial killer.

The first victims found, two freshmen female students, were grotesquely mutilated and posed deliberately to shock whoever discovered them. Body parts were missing. The third body found, also female, was decapitated and the head had been placed to stare at whoever entered. Further examination revealed that the nipples had been sliced off and the victim had effectively been gutted. The fourth and fifth killings were without mutilations because it was suspected that Rollings was interrupted.

Tragically, the grandmother of Edward Humphrey, the chief suspect, would die of a massive coronary on her front doorstep as she tried to fend off an intrusive reporter. She was arguably Rolling's last victim. It took police some time to link the five student killings with a triple homicide in 1989 but the fact was that there, the female victim had also been positioned to deliver maximum shock effect. DNA proved Rolling had killed at both places.

What drove him to such horrors? At some point during his life, Danny Rolling said he created an alternative personality, his evil side, which he called ‘Gemini’. However, police soon realised this was pretence and that only the week before he had watched ‘Excorcist III’ in which the killer’s name is ‘Gemini’. Danny Rolling was raised by an aggressive and abusive father, whom Danny would later shoot. His mother never interfered with the attacks on her son, probably because her husband used to beat her when she was pregnant.

His first attempts to crawl led to his father chucking him down the hallway. He was whipped once a week. Drugs and drinks blighted the rest of his life, with his marriage ending in divorce and several years spent in prison for robbery. It was during one of these spells inside that he was raped by inmates. The jury at his trial heard all of the above and more.

It took them two days to deliver the death penalty verdict.