Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Darren O'Neall

The Evergreen State

Darren Dee O'Neall, 27, arrived virtually unnoticed in the rugged Twin Peaks backwoods of Washington State on November 3, 1986, an unseasonably warm Monday.
Known as a drifter to his family, friends and law enforcement agencies across the country, O'Neall had traveled extensively throughout the United States. As the product of an Army household, his travels had begun in his youth and continued un�til his father, Darrell, finally retired from the military and settled with Darren's mother, Christa, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But for reasons, dark, maca�bre reasons that no one yet fully understood, Darren O'Neall continued to travel in his adult life, out of necessity in most cases in order to stay one step ahead of the law.�

Darren ONeall (Mugshot Colorado Springs Police Dept.)
Darren ONeall
(Mugshot Colorado Springs Police
Dept.)
On the move almost constantly, he never remained in one location for very long. As a result, he did little bonding with others and knew few peo�ple whom he could call friends.� When he chose to associate with anyone, he did so mostly with street people, animals of the street as ONeall himself was known to call them.� He didnt form alliances out of a yearning for companionship but out of a need to score illicit drugs or to launch a new scam of some sort.
Mostly, however, he made contacts in the streets because he blended in so smoothly with what he termed societys rubbish, which is how he sometimes thought of himself, and because he knew that such people would be the least likely ever to turn him in to the law.� He was gutsy and daring, which should not be construed as bravery or gallantry but instead should be understood in the vein that he would do what he had to do to get what he wanted.� In that sense, some would say, he had more nerve than a government mule.� But he was a loner for the most part, afraid to face life responsibly and on the right side of the law, and that seemed to suit him just fine.
Upon his arrival in the "Evergreen State," O'Neall promptly contacted an old high school friend who, ONeall learned, had also recently moved into the area.� While renewing their friendship, the old friend convinced O'Neall in short order that life and women were indeed good there and that he should rent an apartment and stay, too.� O'Neall, apparently believing his friend and taking him at his word decided to try out the area for a while.� After settling into a shabby duplex unit in Puyallup, a small community of 17,200 residents, he quickly obtained work as a truck driver in nearby Tacoma.
Although his propensity for carrying out senseless acts of violence was present early in his life and began to manifest itself during a period of enlistment with the U.S. Army, no one, not even O'Neall, really knew what he was capable of doing.� He was literally a ticking time bomb waiting to explode but, unfortunately, nobody knew when, where, or by what means the detonation would occur.

The Evil Within

By January 1987 the darkness within Darren O'Neall began to surface. O'Neall's job as a trucker took him to Portland, Oregon, some 130 miles to the south, on the evening of January 17. Driving toward his destination, he spotted an attractive 14-year-old girl walking across a freeway overpass on the city's southeast side on her way to a nearby convenience store.� Driving a big rig, O'Neall's insatiable sexual urge compelled him to turn around and drive back for a second look, just in time to see her walk inside the convenience store.� With his libido now dictating his actions, he positioned his truck on the side of the street along the route she had come and waited for her to emerge from the store.
This was too good to be true, or so ONeall thought.� After all, he had just driven south from Tacoma to Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses, and he had already found himself a perfect victim.� While it was certainly bad luck for the girl, it was indeed good luck for him. Rarely was finding a victim so easy.� Fate was clearly on his side once again.� Thinking through a quickly made plan, ONeall told himself that it would all be worth it once he had the girl under his control.� He lit up a Camel filter, his favorite brand of cigarette, and drew the harsh smoke deep into his lungs as he waited for the girl to leave the store.
Five minutes passed. As he waited for her to re�turn, he became more anxious, excited, and his breathing grew heavier, more intense with each sec�ond that ticked by. Three minutes later he lit another Camel from the one he was smoking, and flicked the finished one out into the street. He continued to wait, and he took out one of the long-bladed hunting knives that he always carried with him as he began to fantasize about what he would soon be able to do with the girl. He turned the knife over and over in his hands, feeling the sharp, turned-up tip. The things he planned to do to the girl were terrible, unthinkable by most people's values - but not to his. People, to him, were objects to be used for his pleasure alone, to be discarded like garbage �when he was finished with them. He didn't care whether she had a family or what kinds of repercussions his ac�tions would have on them or the girl. Thoughts of decency were foreign to him. All he cared about was himself, what he needed, what he wanted. Even more frightening, there was a part of him that under�stood all of this.
Although he was not yet versed in the legality of what he was about to do, by definition he was going to interfere with a person's personal liberty and com�mit the crime of kidnapping in the first degree with the sole purpose of causing physical and psycholog�ical injury to his chosen victim. He was going to confine her secretly so that he could terrorize her without being disturbed, ultimately for his sexual pleasure and the delight he would enjoy of having her under his power, under his total control. He knew what he was doing, and he knew right from wrong. But he didn't care. He was evil.
Finally, there she was, coming out of the store. She was carrying an open bottle of soda pop in one hand and a small sack of candy and other treats in the other. There was no time to lose. The man moved quickly into action. He climbed out of the cab of his big rig, the half-burned Camel hanging from his lips, and moved toward the truck's sleeping compartment door, pretending that he was attending to some kind of a problem with his rig. Such tactics had worked for him before. There was no reason for him to believe they wouldn't work this time.
When the girl was alongside the truck, the hairy man, without any warning, pulled on the outside handle of the sleeping compartment door and swung it open, then stepped onto the sidewalk in front of her and effectively blocked her path, all in one swift action. It was imperative that he move quickly. He couldn't risk anyone seeing him kidnap the girl.

Extremes of Sexual Violence

Puzzled and somewhat startled at first, the girl stopped in her tracks and looked up quizzically at the man. Not wanting the girl to scream and cause a scene before he could get her under his control, the man attempted a halfhearted smile as he leered at her with Charlie Manson eyes. Quick as a snake he reached out and grabbed her by the front of her ny�lon jacket. Terrified, the girl stiffened and froze, un�able to scream or fight back. The man lifted her off the sidewalk and pushed her forcefully into the truck's sleeping compartment. He leaped inside after her and pulled the door shut behind him, brandish�ing the hunting knife for the girl to see. He also told her that he had a gun, but she didn't actually see the .357 Ruger he was carrying.
"If you scream or try to get away, I'll kill you," said the man, brimming with a matter-of-fact, arrogant confidence. The girl, wild-eyed with fear, couldn't take her eyes off the knife. The knife was having the ef�fect that he wanted it to have, and he seemed aroused by her wild display of fear. Although terrified, she kept quiet and involuntarily allowed the man to stuff a gag inside her mouth and to bind her hands and feet. Squirming from discomfort and crying uncontrollably, her young mind instinctively told her that it would be futile, and possibly very dangerous, to resist. When he was certain that the bindings were tautly in place and was confident that she couldn't get away or cause him any trouble, the man exited the sleeping compartment and climbed back into the driver's seat. Certain that he had drawn no attention from passersby he calmly started the engine and pulled unobtrusively away from the curb. He crossed the overpass, then took the freeway on-ramp that headed him south into rural Clackamas County, his predetermined destination. He wanted his privacy, and he knew that he would get it there.
Fifteen minutes later, he pulled off onto a dark, tree-shrouded unpaved road and parked in an area not unlike that being frequented by serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers (see Blood Lust:� Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer), also known as the Molalla Forest Killer.� ONeall wasnt aware of Rogers, who had not been apprehended yet and wouldnt be for several more months.� But no one would bother him there, of that ONeall was certain. With steady hands he reached into a sack on the floor�board and pulled out a lukewarm can of Black Label beer, next to the last can of a six-pack that he had purchased just before leaving Washington State. He lit another Camel, climbed out of the truck, and lis�tened intently. All he could hear was the wind-driven rain pelting the metal of the cab's roof. He was alone with the girl in a silent forest, and though her tears flowed like the rain coming down outside and he could hear her whimpering in the compartment be�hind him, he made not a sound. He was feeling good, strong, and in control. After several minutes of savoring the moment, he climbed inside the sleeping compartment and sat down next to the frightened, whimpering girl, a mere child who was only now beginning to learn about life's darkest side.
Keeping the knife where she could see it, he carefully removed her restraints. He drew back his hand at one point, as if he was going to slap her hard across the face with the palm of his hand. The display was to show her that he meant business. But for some reason he didn't strike the girl. Perhaps it was the way she had flinched sharply in anticipation of the pain that the slap would have caused, or perhaps it was because she had promptly nodded in affirmation that she would do just as she was told, everything that he instructed her to do as long as he promised not to kill her. But the only promise he made to her was that if she didn't obey, she would suffer dearly for it. She believed him, and slowly followed his in�structions by removing all her clothing.
The girl slowly unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it off. She next unfastened her jeans and, from a sitting position, slipped them down. She looked at him for a mo�ment, as if waiting or hoping that he would change his mind.
"Go on, get the rest of those off," he commanded as he showed her the knife again. "What the fuck are you waitin' for?"
She unfastened her bra in the back and, attempting to cover her breasts with one arm, she removed the bra the rest of the way with the other. She then slipped her panties off and kneeled on the floor.� He pushed her onto her back, but she remained rigid.
He ran his large, rough hands across her breasts, and took the hunting knife and ran its tip slowly and ever so lightly across her stomach. With careful, deliberate movements he continued dragging the knife in a downward motion, across her abdomen and pelvic area to, finally, between her thighs. He felt good, all-powerful. He wriggled out of his own pants He forced himself on top of the girl and entered her forcefully. . His breath stank of beer and cigarettes, and he panted as he continued to rape her.
His manhood was important to him, even if he really wasn't the man he wanted everyone to think that he was. He had to maintain the image. It was all an extension of his fantasy, which he believed he had to keep alive to get along in the world.
The girl didn't want to take any chances of angering him by protesting his demands that she perform oral sex on him and so she continued the deviant act until he backed away on his own. She didn't know what he might do with the knife.
He would continue to rape her over the next two hours. At one point, when it appeared that he would not be able to attain another erection, the man grabbed the now empty soda pop bottle that the girl had been carrying when he kidnapped her and placed it angrily be�tween her legs.
"Bet you know what I'm doing to do with this, don't you?" he laughed. The girl remained silent, and only stared at him with wild, frightened eyes.
He carefully, but forcefully, worked the bottle's neck into her vagina.
When ONeall realized that he was finished with the girl, he also knew that he had the problem of deciding what to do with her. He had kidnapped, repeatedly raped, and sexually penetrated the body of a juvenile female with a foreign object, among other crimes. If he let her go, he knew that she would likely be able to identify him at some point. He thought and talked of killing her, but she cried and pleaded with him to let her go.
"I promise I won't tell anyone what happened if you'll just let me go," she cried. "Please don't kill me!"
"I could sell you to pimps in California," he said after several minutes of silence, an evil gleam in his eyes. He seemed lost, deep in thought for several more minutes before finally breaking the quietude. After taunting her by telling her all of the horrible things that he could do to her, he demanded that she promise, again, not to tell anyone about what had happened to her. After threatening to find her if she did, ONeall miraculously agreed to let her go. He allowed her to dress, drove her back to the city, and dropped her off at a location where she could easily find her way home.
When the girl arrived home, she discovered that her parents were still up, frantic with worry. They had already called the police, but, they had been told, there wasn't much that they could do until more time had passed. She hadn't been missing long enough to qualify as a missing person. Trembling un�controllably, she tearfully recounted to her parents the horror she had been subjected to over the past few hours. They reported the crimes that had been committed against their daughter to the Portland Police Bureau, and the girl was taken to a local hospital for examination. A standard rape kit, which includes a comb, swabs and evidence containers, was used to collect the evidence.
Following the medical examination, Portland Police Bureau Detective Bill Carter interviewed the girl at length. She described her attacker as a white male, approximately 25 to30 years of age, nearly six feet tall, and about 160 pounds. She said that he had a thick mustache and beard, and somewhat crooked teeth. However, despite the investigation that was initiated as case number 87-12-37738 that evening, it would be nearly six months before the girl would positively identify her attacker as one Darren Dee O'Neall.
In the meantime, she would begin to despise and distrust nearly all men because of what happened to her on the night of January 17, 1987, and would grow up harboring such feelings despite extensive therapy. And, like so many others who had become victims of violent crime, she would become afraid of the dark.
ONeall eventually would be charged with two counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of first-degree rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object, three counts of third-degree rape, and single counts of first-degree sodomy, third-degree sodomy, and sexual abuse, but not before returning to Washington State and murdering Robin Smith, and likely other victims.

Bearded Darren ONeall has become a master of disguise (Mugshot, Multnomah County Sheriff's Dept.)
Bearded Darren ONeall has become a master of disguise (Mugshot, Multnomah County Sheriff's Dept.)
Following the attack on the young girl in Oregon, O'Neall, being a master of disguise and possessing an uncanny ability to elude the law, did not return to his job but instead changed his appearance, took on an alias and moved from Puyallup to nearby Edgewood, an even smaller town of only 1,600 people where he obtained a job as a laminator.� As would become a part of his overall profile, he managed to stay one step ahead of the law.

'Rockin' Robin

Nearly two months after the attack on the young Oregon girl, in March 1987, O'Neall met attractive Mary Barnes at Baldy's Tavern in Puyallup, where Barnes worked part-time as a barmaid.� Baldys soon became one of ONealls favorite haunts, and he began going there almost daily.� Attracted to O'Neall's ruggedness, the two instantly hit it off and Barnes soon moved into O'Neall's apartment.� Barnes satisfied him sexually at first, but after a couple of weeks he began to fantasize about the perfect woman he wanted for himself, a woman he hoped he could take back into the woods and live out the rest of his life with.� It was just a fantasy, of course, one of many that he got from reading Louis LAmours western novels.
Early on Saturday morning, March 28, shortly past midnight, O'Neall began eyeing a beautiful young woman from across the bar.� Soon afterward his fantasy state took hold, and he immediately felt certain that he had found the perfect woman hed been looking for in Robin Smith, 22, at Baldy's Tavern.� He found Smith, at 5-foot-3, 115 pounds with blue eyes and blond hair, very attractive.� But there was a problem, one that ONeall became starkly aware of almost immediately.� Robin was with her fiance, Larron Crowston, 23, however, and did not actually meet O'Neall until later that morning at his apartment.� O'Neall, it turned out, had decided early that he had to find a way to separate Smith from Crowston, and shortly before the tavern closed that morning he persuaded Barnes to announce to the tavern patrons that everyone was invited to his place for an "after hours" party.� A small crowd, including Smith and Crowston, accompanied O'Neall and Barnes to their apartment, where the drinking continued non-stop into the morning.
At 5 a.m. Crowston suddenly left the party, citing a previously planned fishing trip with friends that he had committed himself to, but there was the question of how Robin would get home.� Robin didnt want to leave the party yet, but Crowston could not wait any longer or he would miss the fishing boat.� After being assured by O'Neall and Barnes that they would see to it that Robin got home safely, Crowston kissed his fianc�e goodbye.� He didnt know it, but it would be the last time he ever saw Robin.
****
Robin Pamela Smith was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on April 4, 1965, to Edna and Stuart Smith. A tiny baby, not much larger than a child's doll, Robin weighed a mere four pounds, four ounces. Her mother described her as a good baby, which, in any mother's language, translates into a quiet baby, and the placidity that followed her into adolescence and adulthood would be but one of several traits for which she would be remembered. Somewhat prissy as a little girl, she borrowed her sisters' clothes all the time, and these, too, were characteristics that she would carry with her into young adulthood.

Edna Smith (Gary C. King)
Edna Smith (Gary C. King)
Robin's mother, Edna, grew up in New Britain, having moved there when she was five, and she lived there for approximately 25 years. Later, after marrying Stuart, her second husband, and giving birth to Robin, Edna and her family moved to Meriden, Connecticut, where they lived on Crown Street for 12 years and made their living for a while by operating a restaurant and bar. Shortly after Robin's 12th birthday, the Smiths decided to leave New England. After considerable soul searching and planning, they packed up their belongings and moved to the state of Washington, leaving behind their friends and relatives to start a new life in the Pacific Northwest.

Robin Smith at age 11 (Edna Smith)
Robin Smith at age 11 (Edna Smith)
Although Robin was considered a generally serene and private teenage girl, she liked to dance. While growing up she often was affectionately called "Rockin' Robin" by her friends, a nickname that was inspired by the old Michael Jackson song bearing that same title, because she always rocked and danced to the music on the radio. But Robin was no rocker at all, at least not in the true sense of the word. She liked to listen to the tunes and move to the beat, but she was not lost in the world of rock 'n' roll. She liked other music as well, as long as it pleased her ear and she could dance to it.
On the surface Robin, in her youngest years, was not always perceived as a friendly child, as often happens to people who are shy.� People often mistake shyness for coldness or aloofness, when it is usually nothing of the sort. Deep down, Robin was really a very warm and loving young girl who was devoted to her family and friends. Although beheld by some in her later teenage years as a happy-go-lucky girl, those closest to Robin knew her as being quieter and more reserved than many young girls her age. The shyness, say members of her family, never really left her, and it always took some doing for anyone even to get to know her. She consistently moved slowly with new acquaintances, especially males, perhaps because of the pain that she had watched her mother go through during the trauma of divorce. It was only after Robin had become comfortable with someone that she would open up and talk to them, and even then only rarely would she reveal her innermost feelings and secrets to anyone outside her immediate family.

Fear of the Dark

Like many kids, Robin grew up being afraid of the dark. At first it seemed natural enough to her parents, as if it was only a childhood phase that she was going through. But as time went on she began to dwell upon her fears, and often had disturbing thoughts that something terrible was going to happen to her.� Family members be�lieved that might have been one of the reasons why she kept to herself. She had friends, but she was always very selective about the people with whom she chose to associate, and she always remained close to her family.
Perhaps more of a homebody type than many of her peers, Robin tried hard to be a typical teenager during her high school years. Like most teenagers, she wanted acceptance from kids her own age and sometimes bowed to pressure, such as taking up the habit of smoking cigarettes. But she never did anything to cause her parents any real problems or grief. Even though she made good grades in school, she didn't particularly like school, and as time went on it became tough for her mother to get her out of bed in the morning. But even that, aside from occasionally showing up late for school, never really became a problem for anyone. If she had a problem that she couldn't solve herself or if something bothered her, she would always go to her mother with her troubles, just as all of Edna's kids would. Of course, she had the usual fights with her three brothers and two sisters, and there was a certain amount of sibling rivalry among all of them, just as there is in any large family, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty they were always there for one another just as their mother had always taught them to be.
Despite the love and positive reinforcement that Robin received at home, she did not grow up being overly confident. She often worried about her looks and became self-conscious, which, again, was typical for a teenage girl. She was pretty, but she didn't really think of herself as being very pretty. She had had a hernia on her navel when she was a baby, not a "normal belly button," which, even though surgically repaired when she was an infant, transformed into a rather small line with an indentation as she grew up. Although it wasn't particularly noticeable and didn't mar her attractiveness, she didn't want people to see it. For reasons that no one really understood, she developed an almost unnatural fear of having her body exposed, perhaps because of her herniated navel. She even dreaded going to the doctor out of fear that she would be asked to disrobe for an examination, and would see a doctor only when it became absolutely necessary.
There was also a certain dark or grim side to Robin. Besides being afraid of the dark, which might have stemmed from her fondness for a country and western song, "Jeannie Is Afraid of the Dark," that she listened to constantly as a child, Robin withdrew into her own little shell when her mother divorced her second husband, Robin's father, Stuart, in 1978. As if being withdrawn wasn't a serious enough problem for her to cope with, she began having recurring nightmares of being held captive in a crowded, dark place, nightmares that her mother now believes, in retrospect, were a chilling foreshadowing of what was to come.
Within a year or so, as she began to accept her parents' divorce, Robin started coming out of the protective shell that she had constructed around herself. By then she had become close friends with two other girls, Julie and Trish, and the trio was inseparable. Together almost constantly, everybody soon began calling them the Three Musketeers.
Then, in 1982, Trish suddenly announced to Robin and Julie that she was moving to California. She was going to stay with a friend there and find a job, she told her friends. Robin, then 16, was deeply saddened to see her friend leave, but she nonetheless wished Trish luck and issued her a stern warning not to get drawn into the nether world of drugs or prostitution. Trish promised her friends that she wouldn't, and assured them that she would behave herself and that she would stay in touch. Following a tearful going-away party, Trish departed her friends' lives.

A Murdered Friend

Two months later, however, Trish called Robin. Robin, of course, was ecstatic to hear from her. But there was something about the fact that Trish had called that troubled her. Robin asked her what was wrong, not really expecting Trish to tell her but nonetheless hoping that she would. Everything was fine, said Trish. She had a job, she was happy, and she said she liked living in California. But she somehow didn't sound normal to Robin, and Robin continued to sense that something was wrong.
"Are you sure that you're not on drugs or involved in prostitution?" Robin asked. "If you are, I'll kick your butt because I don't want you doing things like that. Come home if things are going wrong for you.� Still Trish insisted that everything was fine.
Two days later, while watching television, Robin saw a news report about a girl who had been murdered at an apartment complex down on the Sea-Tac Strip, a busy boulevard of hotels, motels, and restau�rants so named because of its close proximity to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Some of the establishments were classy, but for every classy hotel or motel there were two that were seedy.� Hookers, young and over-the-hill alike, commonly walked the Strip at all hours of the day and night, looking to turn a trick and make a few bucks for their next fix of heroin, speed, or whatever. Some of the girls worked independently, and others had pimps. But it didn't matter. They were always there, rain or shine, and many of them often fell victim to a sex criminal of one kind or another while working in the world's oldest profession. Most were either released or escaped with only minimal physical harm after having been forced to engage in any number of acts of sexual fetishism, some violent. But one such sex criminal, however, showed them no mercy.� He would eventually be dubbed the Green River Killer, a vicious psychopathic murderer who wanted more out of the prostitutes, much more, than they were willing to sell to him. The Strip would become the focal point of the police, from where so many of that serial killer's street-walking victims were plucked off the boulevard and driven to their violent, horrible deaths.
Naturally, when the girl was found dead at the apartment complex, most people never thought much about it at the time. By then the murders attributed to the Green River Killer had become more or less commonplace, and the public at first just chalked up the murder of this latest young female as another of the elusive serial killer's victims, just another prostitute who had met an unpleasant end. But the police knew right away that the girl wasn't a Green River Killer victim. Although the girl was indeed quickly labeled a hooker by the police, her murder simply did not fit that serial killer's modus operandi, his method of operation. And when Robin saw the news reports of the murdered girl, her thoughts turned to Trish. But she soon convinced herself that the girl couldn't have been Trish. She was in California.
The police couldn't immediately identify the young girl. The news reports said that she had been raped and murdered in an upstairs apartment unit, stabbed to death, and her nude body had been tossed off one of the balconies. Soon, however, the police had a photo taken of the dead girl, just of her face, and had it published under the Crime Stoppers heading in the local newspapers. One of the victim's former classmates recognized her, and positively identified her for the police. It was Trish, all right, and when Robin learned that one of her closest friends had been brutally raped and murdered, it was almost more than she could take.
Robin literally came unglued, as did her friend Julie, the sister of close family friend Jim Chaney.� Despite warnings from her family and friends, Robin went down to the apartment complex where the murder occurred and started knocking on doors, asking questions of the tenants in an attempt to find out who had done such a horrible thing to her girlfriend. Fearing that Robin might roust the killer out during one of her irrational outbursts, Edna called a police friend and asked him to speak to her. Although Robin at first resisted the police officer's efforts to talk some sense into her, he eventually was able to convince her to let the police do their job. Even after the case was eventually cleared, Robin and Julie would find it difficult to return their lives to normal.
Following Trish's murder, Robin's nightmares resumed and actually intensified. No longer did she merely dream that something horrible was going to happen to her. Her dreams became more specific than that and intensified to the point where she frequently dreamed of dying at the hands of another, horribly, just like Trish. Although everyone tried to console her and attempted to pump positive thoughts into her mind, the nightmares only grew worse. Concerned for her safety after Trish's murder, and seeing how adversely the murder had affected her, Robin's brothers and sisters began cautioning her about the many dangers lurking on the city's streets. If anyone ever tried to rape her, they told her, just give it up if it otherwise meant losing her life. But Robin always remained steadfast.
"Never. Over my dead body I'll fight. I'll go down with a fight," she told them. Although she never fully got over Trish's brutal and untimely death, she tried hard to get on with her life. It wasn't easy, but the fact that she and Julie were there for each other to lean on helped them both to eventually accept what had happened to Trish.

Robin is Missing

Upon returning from his fishing trip, Larron discovered that Robin had not returned home.� He and Robins mother, Edna, became exceedingly worried about her well being after being unable to locate anyone who knew where she was.� Fearing for Robin's safety, Larron and Edna reported Robin missing to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

Detective Walt Stout (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Detective Walt Stout (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
As the missing person investigation got underway, Mary Barnes told Pierce County detectives Walter Walt Stout and Terry Wilson that she had left the apartment the morning of the party for a few hours, but when she returned in the afternoon both O'Neall and Smith were gone, as was O'Neall's car.� After a search of the apartment, Barnes informed authorities that O'Neall had taken food, camping gear, clothing, and other items.� She also discovered that an electrical cord to the television was missing, which she as well as the detectives considered very strange.
According to Barnes, O'Neall often carried a knife on his belt and another hidden in his boot.� She also said that O'Neall claimed to have knowledge of survivalist skills obtained from his prior enlistment in the Army Rangers and Green Berets, but the detectives were unable to find any evidence that he was ever a member of either of the elite military groups, only that he had been an enlistee in the regular army.� Barnes told the investigators that O'Neall dressed primarily in western wear, including cowboy hats, boots, and jeans.� In addition to having worked as a bartender and a laminator in a cabinet-making shop, the detectives learned that O'Neall exhibited considerable talent in woodworking skills.� Barnes corroborated information from other sources that ONeall was also known to frequently change his appearance through hair growth and cutting, adding and removing a mustache and beard, and sometimes wearing wire-rimmed glasses.
Later on the day that Robin failed to return home, O'Neall showed up at a friends home at 1:30 p.m. driving a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker with Montana license plates.� He explained that he was going away for awhile, but did not indicate where he was going or for how long he would be gone.� O'Neall asked to borrow some money from his friend for a truck that he claimed he wanted to buy, and dropped off one of his dogs for his friend to watch for him during his absence.� ONealls friend accompanied him to the car, which was backed into a driveway across the street, and noticed while they were talking that something was kicking hard against the back seat from inside the trunk.� When his friend asked him what was inside the trunk, O'Neall explained that he was having difficulty with his other dog and had locked it inside the trunk as a form of punishment.
"I told him, 'That's sick.� You don't put a dog in the trunk,'" the friend explained later when he talked to the police.� "Then I walked away without writing him the check, and he drove off."

Detective Terry Wilson (Gary C. King)
Detective Terry Wilson
(Gary C. King)
ONealls friend told Detective Wilson that O'Neall had seemed very nervous, like he was hiding something, and stressed that he had not heard any dog barking from inside the trunk.� Later, Robin's relatives discovered that the second dog, the one that was supposed to have been in the trunk, was still at O'Neall's apartment, apparently abandoned.
Later that night at a nearby hospital emergency room, a man requested treatment for facial cuts and scrapes.� The man fit O'Neall's description:� a teardrop mark on his cheek and the word "J-U-N-E" tattooed across his knuckles.� The following morning a man walked into the Safeway grocery store in Enumclaw, Washington, a man believed to be O'Neall.� He purchased pastry, cigarettes, and Black Label beer.
Two hours later a flagman noticed someone in a car second in a line of cars in the Greenwater area near Mount Rainier waiting to get past roadwork. Unlike the others, the man did not have skis, even though he was headed toward the mountain.� Also unlike the others, the man drove on by, pulled off the road, waited for twenty minutes, then returned the way he had come.� The investigators eventually believed that the man seen by the flagman was none other than Darren O'Neall.� It was at that time, they eventually theorized after no sign of Robin was ever found, that he pulled off the highway onto a rugged logging road and disposed of Robin Smith's body.
Robin's relatives, friends, and acquaintances soon told the investigators that it was completely out of character for Robin to just leave with O'Neall, especially since she was engaged to Crowston, and a missing person report was finally filed when deputies followed up on the initial reports called in by Edna and Larron.� In those reports Robin was described as wearing blue jeans, a pink-and-white shirt, purple coat and white tennis shoes. She had a quarter-inch scar above her left eye.� Similarly, an APB was issued for O'Neall, in which he was described as 5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds, medium build, blond hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion.� It also described a vertical scar on his right cheek, a six-inch surgical scar on his abdomen, a small, barely visible five-point-tip star tattoo below his left eye, and the name "J-U-N-E" tattooed on the knuckles of his left hand.� Though there was no sign of O'Neall or Robin, Robin's family and fiance did not give up the hope that she was still alive.

Robins coat found in the car trunk (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Robins coat found in the car trunk (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Another day passed, and on Monday, March 30, 1987, the dark yellow Chrysler O'Neall was known to drive was found abandoned at a rest stop 15 miles north of Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, along the northbound lanes of Interstate 5.� Though the car was the clue that almost got away, it was eventually linked to O'Neall and investigators opened the trunk.� Inside the detectives found the blood-soaked jacket that belonged to Robin Smith, two teeth, a bone fragment, and a heavily blood stained interior.� The cops suspected that Robin had been beaten severely with a hammer or some other heavy instrument while held captive in the trunk of ONealls car.� No longer did the detectives hold out much hope that Robin was still alive.� Nonetheless, Edna continued to grasp a thin thread of hope and refused to believe that the worst had happened.

The trunk of O'Neall's car containing items of Robin's clothing (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
The trunk of O'Neall's car containing items of Robin's clothing (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)

Louis L'Armour

When he searched O'Neall's apartment, Detective Stout found a clue in O'Neall's own handwriting.� It was an outline of his future plans and ultimate goals, plans that emphasized living in a secluded cabin in the wilderness with minimum assistance and only the bare necessities.� Among those necessities that he included in his writing were a copy of the Bible and Louis L'Amour novels, specifically L'Amour's books on the Sackett family of the wild west.� Stout also found dozens of L'Amour's western books as well as western magazines scattered about the apartment.� Stout soon learned from his colleagues in Idaho that O'Neall, while living in Idaho, went by the name Larry Sackett.� And still more evidence of the L'Amour obsession and of yet a second alias was a medical card, allegedly used by O'Neall, in the name of Zebulan J. Macranahan.� O'Neall, Stout learned, purportedly told friends that the names Sackett and
Macranahan were names of characters in some of L'Amour's books, which was why he chose them as aliases.� Police now believed that O'Neall's fantasies might help explain Robin's disappearance.
"We believe that it does," said Detective Terry Wilson, "and that he actually intended to go into the woods somewhere and live like some of the characters in L'Amour's books."
Despite the intensity of the police investigation, Edna and her family were not satisfied.� In a series of events orchestrated by Edna, family members and friends went to O'Neall's apartment.� They gained entry on their own and searched it thoroughly.� They found drug syringes and needles, paraphernalia, and other evidence of drug use and abuse.� They also found signs that a struggle had occurred there and other evidence that was apparently overlooked by the police.� They also spoke with Mary Barnes, and soon suspected her of hiding O'Neall in the hours after Robin's disappearance.
Still being directed by Edna, family friend Jim Chaney, Robins brother, Robert Sharp, and others paid a visit to the home of ONealls friend, the friend that ONeall visited the day of Robins disappearance.� They questioned him at length, and he appeared nervous.� At one point a known junkie and another man came out of ONealls friends place of business and began talking about the case and the day that O'Neall had shown up there.� The junkie told of O'Neall opening the trunk of his car, and of seeing part of a naked leg.� Before being told to shut up by ONealls friend, the junkie also described a purple and white sock, the type that would eventually be found with Robin's clothing in the forest near Greenwater.� Because of the junkie's reputation, the police, of course, discounted his story.� Edna, however, maintained that the junkie, ONealls friend, and the other man knew more than they were telling the police.
 

Searching for Robin

In the face of growing adversity and doubt, Edna did not give up in the search for Robin.� In near desperation, she consulted a known psychic in the area who agreed to help her free of charge.� The psychic soon directed Edna to the Greenwater area near Mount Rainier, and said that Robin was in or near an area where there was running or dripping water.� It was becoming more difficult for Edna to talk about Robin's disappearance and about what she now suspected had happened, just as it had become difficult for the rest of the family to organize a search for what they did not want to find.� More than 50 �people volunteered to search for Robin despite an overnight snowfall and despite the overwhelming odds against finding her in the vast wilderness where they believed her body had been dumped.� Robin's sister, Brenda Baker, five months pregnant, and Robert, her brother, were among the searchers who had volunteered to help a determined mother find out what had happened to Robin.

Greenwater area near Mt. Rainier (Gary C. King)
Greenwater area near Mt. Rainier (Gary C. King)
At the end of the first days search effort there was still no sign of Robin, but signs of the family's hope were seen by yellow ribbons tied to the branches of trees, ribbons marking the places where Robin was not found to keep the searchers from covering the same spots twice.� For Edna and her family, no sign of Robin meant that she still could be alive.� They continued to cling to that belief and to what the psychic told them:� that Robin was near dripping or running water.
"She could still be alive," said Edna tearfully.� "She (the psychic) said that it's very possible that the feeling that she gets, which is total peace, could mean that Robin could be in a coma.� Or she could be so drugged up that she can't respond to anything. But the other possibility is that she could be dead."
Police theorized that if Robin was still alive, she had lost a great deal of blood judging by the carnage found in the trunk of ONealls car and that each night that she spent in the mountains, if that was indeed where she was, lessened the chance that she would be found alive.
Although they didnt realize it until later, Edna and her family had come within a few yards of finding Robin's remains during one of the searches, which were being consumed and scattered by coyotes and other animals.� When they reflected on it later, they were grateful that they hadnt discovered her in that condition.
Edna and members of her family, as well as family friend Jim Chaney, made the drive daily to the Greenwater area for the next two months and continued to search the vast forests and mountainous terrain for Robin.� But there was no sign of a body and no sign of a suspect, a suspect who was by now considered by everyone involved as an outlaw as elusive as his fantasy of the west.� Police did not yet believe that ONealls trail had gone coldthey said that it simply did not exist.� All they knew for certain was that he was out there, somewhere.

Stolen Car

The clue that eventually linked O'Neall to the Chrysler came when the detectives finally determined that the car had been stolen from a man that ONeall had previously befriended in Nampa, Idaho.� The man, a long-haul trucker, was eventually traced through his employer to Portland, Oregon, where he told investigators that he had picked up a hitchhiker the previous
October while driving to Nampa.� The man claimed that the hitchhiker had identified himself as Jerry Zebulan Macranahan, and had resided with the man in his home from October 15 through November 2, 1986.� On November 2, the man said that he had left for a job and had entrusted the Chrysler to Macranahan during his absence.� When he returned home on November 4, he found the vehicle, a .357 Ruger, $200 and Macranahan all missing.� The man promptly identified Macranahan as Darren O'Neall from a photo throw down.

Stolen car that ONeall had driven (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Stolen car that ONeall had driven (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
The Pierce County detectives soon turned up O'Neall's extensive criminal history, but it would still be at least two months before they linked him to the January kidnapping and rape charges involving the young girl in Portland.� They discovered that he was arrested on March 12, 1982, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for obstructing police and disturbing the peace.� In September 1982 he was cited for damaging private property and committing third-degree assault.� In October 1982 he was again cited for drinking in public.� In November 1984 he was charged with first-degree sexual assault, a charge that was later reduced to aggravated robbery.� Those charges were ultimately dismissed because the complaining witness, a prostitute, could no longer be located.� In July 1986 O'Neall committed a second-degree sexual assault for which he was arrested and later skipped bail on.� There were also a number of public indecency offenses on his record, such as urinating and defecating in public.

Wendy Aughe (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Wendy Aughe (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
On April 24, 1987, an individual who identified himself as Mike James Johnson was hired as a bartender at the La Paloma Restaurant in Bellingham, Washington.� It was there that O'Neall, posing as "Johnson," met pretty Wendy Aughe, 29, a beauty school student and mother of two young children.� O'Neall and Aughe were last seen together leaving the La Paloma on April 25 during the early morning hours.� Not surprisingly, Aughe was not heard from again, and worried family members reported her unexplained disappearance to the police.
A subsequent search of Aughe's Bellingham apartment revealed signs of a struggle, pools of blood, and blood soaked bed sheets and linen.� Peter tracks, dried semen, was also found on the bed sheets.� The considerable evidence found inside Wendy Aughe's apartment suggested that a sexual assault had occurred there.� After an APB was issued for ONeall, a U.S. Customs agent soon reported having taken a photograph of O'Neall driving Aughe's car as he came back across the border into the U.S. from Canada, in the time frame when Wendy disappeared.� O'Neall was the only person visible in the car in the spot check photo.
A week later, on Saturday, May 2, 1987, Aughe's 1972 Ford Torino was found abandoned in Eugene, Oregon, and a man later identified as O'Neall was reported as having been seen at several locations in downtown Eugene attempting to sell a gold chain necklace, according to Detective J.T. Parr of the Eugene Police Department.� Fingerprints taken from a food wrapper in Aughe's automobile and from a job application submitted by "Johnson" were eventually identified as those of Darren Dee O'Neall.
Police by now admitted that it could be difficult to find Darren O'Neall.� His history clearly showed that he changed his hairstyle and appearance frequently, and the effect was often dramatic.� Wanted posters distributed shortly after Wendy Aughe's disappearance expressed a new sense of urgency because the police now feared that O'Neall had killed twice and could be ready to strike again at any time.� Both Robin and Wendy, police pointed out, were met by O'Neall on a Friday and disappeared late on a Friday night or early Saturday.� Both cars, Wendy's and the Chrysler, were believed dumped on a Monday morning.� The two occurrences were exactly four weeks apart, and the fourth week anniversary of Wendy's disappearance was fast approaching.
Murder charges were filed against O'Neall, in part due to Edna's urging the police to do something in connection with Robin's death despite the fact that her remains had not yet been found.� Police agreed that the heavier charge of murder would help intensify the effort to locate O'Neall.� With Edna's assistance, "Wanted For Murder" posters were distributed to all stores selling books by O'Neall's favorite author, Louis L'Amour, and to beauty shops because O'Neall often had his hair permed, and to other locations throughout western Washington because of concerns that O'Neall was still in the Puget Sound area.� A possible sighting, only one of many, had been reported a week earlier near Mount Rainier.
 

Skeletal Remains


Police search Greenwater area for Robins remains (Gary C. King)
Police search Greenwater area for Robins remains (Gary C. King)
On Monday, May 25, 1987, the day that Memorial Day was officially observed that year, skeletal remains were discovered by hikers in the same general wooded area previously searched by Edna and her family near Greenwater.� It was the same area in which the psychic had directed Edna to search, and the remains were scattered over an area near a running stream.� Some of the remains were collected, and several pieces of clothing and personal identification belonging to Robin were found nearby, partially buried beneath a rotting tree stump.� Detective Stout, other investigators, and Explorer Scouts went out to the site and searched the area.� Edna was notified that the remains could be those of her daughter's after a Pierce County medical examiner concluded that the bones belonged to a Caucasian female in her early 20s with blond hair.
After being told that more bones were needed, specifically jawbones and teeth, to make a positive identification, Edna again pushed the issue with the sheriff's department and insisted that a more thorough search of the area be conducted.� She was told that searchers would go back out and excavate the wooded area just as soon as time and manpower allowed.� But Edna couldnt wait for the sheriff's department, which was already overworked and understaffed due to budget cuts, and took it upon herself to go to the location to dig and search for the additional bones and teeth needed to make a positive identification.� As a result of her efforts, which consisted of hands and knees searches over nearly a two-week period, she found the additional bones that were needed, including a jaw bone.� After a dental comparison of the jawbone was conducted, the authorities positively concluded that the remains were indeed those of Robin Smith. Robin, said the police, had been beaten to death, likely with a heavy object such as a hammer.� An additional search of the area turned up a rusty hammer in the nearby stream.

Robins bloody sock and bone fragment (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Robins bloody sock and bone
fragment
(Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
By this time Larron Crowston became even more despondent over Robin's death despite the fact that he had done everything he could to help the police find her killer.� He continued to blame himself for her death, saying that she would still be alive if he hadn't left her at O'Neall's apartment when he had gone fishing. Edna did everything she could to try and comfort him, to no avail.� He eventually sought professional help and was placed on medication.
****
Meanwhile, on Saturday, June 13, 1987, while detectives in Washington and Oregon were busy running down leads to O'Neall's whereabouts, the nude body of Lia Elizabeth Szubert, 22, was discovered by a passing motorist along Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon, about 12 miles east of the town of La Grande, when the motorist stopped to relieve himself at the side of the road.� Although it was near dusk, he spotted a frighteningly familiar form lying at the bottom of an embankment.� When he investigated further he discovered much to his horror that it was the dead nude body of a rapidly decomposing young female.� Horrified, he reported his grim discovery to the Oregon State Police.� Following an autopsy, the cause of Szubert's death was listed as strangulation.
According to Detective James Howells of the Twin Falls, Idaho, police department, the case involving Szubert unfolded like this:� Szubert was traveling alone from Twin Falls to Boise on Tuesday, June 9, 1987, en route to the airport to pick up her fiance, Duane Abbott, who was coming to visit her from San Diego, California.� Along the way she developed car trouble and called a friend from a Gear Jammer truck stop near Mountain Home, Idaho, along Interstate 84.� This was the last time anyone heard from her, and she was reported as a missing person later that evening.� Several individuals at the truck stop described a male individual matching Darren O'Neall's description as having been present in the area of the truck stop prior to Szubert's disappearance.� He was also spotted several times a couple of hundred miles to the north, in the Spokane, Washington area, several hours after Szubert's disappearance.
Meanwhile, Edna wanted to lay Robin to rest with a proper burial, but Robin's remains were kept in a Pierce County evidence locker.� She threatened to get a court order to enable her to bury the remains, but was told that if and when O'Neall was apprehended, his lawyer could request that forensic experts examine the remains, which would mean that she would have to have them dug up.� As a result Edna decided to wait to bury her daughter, and for the time being began praying at a memorial, complete with a statue of the Virgin Mary, for Robin that she had constructed in her backyard.� She also traveled to the Greenwater area where she regularly placed flowers on the spot where most of Robin's remains were found.

O'Neall

In studying O'Neall's modus operandi, investigators saw that he has had considerable success at being able to obtain his victims from country and western bars, which he liked to frequent.� Some witnesses described him as a compulsive liar and a braggart, while others said that he appeared complimentary and charming to women.� He was portrayed as a heavy drinker, a cocaine user, and a Percodan abuser, and was known to take drugs orally as well as intravenously.
Background also showed that O'Neall was born on February 26, 1960, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.� His parents, Darrell and Christa O'Neall, resided in Colorado Springs, Colorado. O'Neall has two older brothers, Michael and Kevin, and one younger sister, Kristen.� Since O'Neall's father was an Army career man, O'Neall consequently had traveled extensively in his youth.� He was in Bad Tolze, Germany, until 1976, thereafter moving with his family to Fort Polk, Louisiana.� The detectives discovered that he had been looked at as a suspect in sexual crimes in Germany and other locations where he lived while both living with his parents and while he, himself, served out a term of enlistment in the Army.
O'Neall attended high school in the Fort Polk area and later married his high school sweetheart, June Hodges.� O'Neall has one son by June, Christopher O'Neall, born November 20, 1981.� Christopher was being raised by O'Neall's parents while ONeall was on the run, who legally adopted him after O'Neall ran afoul of the law, in Colorado Springs. Although O'Neall was not formally divorced from June, he had a common law wife who resides in Levittown, Pennsylvania.� From that relationship another son, Jason, was born.� Jason continues to live with his mother in Levittown.� After O'Neall enlisted in the U.S. Army, he served for a short time in Bremerhaven, Germany.� He was discharged on February 28, 1982.� Thereafter, O'Neall returned to Colorado Springs and began his known criminal history.
At one point Detective Terry Wilson and the Pierce County Sheriff's Department asked the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit to develop a psychological profile of possible characteristics of their suspect, and the FBI complied.� He fit their classic profile of a serial killer, and they theorized that he might have been acting out a fantasy that stemmed from his affinity for Louis L'Amour's westerns when he abducted and killed Robin Smith.� Additional witnesses told the police that he frequently fantasized about living in the wilderness.
Because of O'Neall's captivation with Louis L'Amour's writing and because he had written several letters to the author, Pierce County authorities at one point asked author L'Amour for his help in their search for O'Neall, to no avail.� Apparently LAmour had never heard of ONeall and had not been contacted by him.� Also, as a result of the FBI's profile and O'Neall's fascination with the outdoors, the Green River Task Force also looked closely at O'Neall as a possible suspect in the Green River serial murders before ruling him out.
As their hunt for O'Neall continued, the investigators learned from witnesses that O'Neall actually knew very little about the outdoors despite the fact that he fancied himself a rugged outdoorsman.� They uncovered information that showed that O'Neall claimed to have worked on a relative's horse ranch in Montana and often spoke about moving to Alaska, Montana, Colorado, or Canada, but they could find no trace of him in any of those states.
After moving throughout the Midwestern and southern states and living under a number of aliases throughout the summer of 1987, O'Neall's growing notoriety and suspected crimes got him a place on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.� At one point he assumed the name "John Mayeaux," and found himself a new girlfriend in Tennessee.� He lived with the woman for a while, and ditched her in Louisiana.� He stole her car and fled to Lakeland, Florida, where he settled briefly.� Following a high speed and eventual foot chase following a traffic violation, O'Neall was arrested on September 22, 1987.� It was after his extradition to Louisiana that authorities learned his true identity, thanks in part to the astuteness of a rookie female officer who took the initiative to have his prints examined by the state Bureau of Criminal Identification in February 1988 after acting on a hunch that "Mayeaux" was a fictitious name.� Investigators from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, Bellingham Police Department, and the Oregon State Police promptly traveled to Louisiana to try and talk to O'Neall and to plan their strategy in the complicated cases they were investigating.� However, he refused to talk to any of them.

Darren ONealls Louisiana mugshot (Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office)
Darren ONealls Louisiana mugshot (Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office)
Nonetheless, ONeall was eventually extradited to Washington state, but not before Edna Smith put up a major fight to bring him back.� Louisiana wanted to keep O'Neall until after his trial on the stolen car charges, but Edna wouldnt stand for it.� She hounded the authorities at every turn, even sending letters and a petition to Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer until she got what she wanted:� O'Neall's return to Washington to stand trial for Robin's murder.
At another point, Deputies Ed Troyer and Ben Benson videotaped an interview with O'Neall as part of a weekly public service show they were involved with on KMO Radio in Tacoma that was used to educate the public about police procedure.� After waiving his Miranda rights and agreeing to talk freely, O'Neall acknowledged that he had murdered Robin Smith.� He refused, however, to say anything about Wendy Aughe and Lia Szubert.
A short time before O'Neall's trial was set to begin, tragedy struck again when Larron Crowston, Robin Smith's fiance and the state's star witness against O'Neall, unexpectedly died from ingesting an overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol.� Although Crowston's death was officially ruled an accident, Crowston, according to Edna Smith, never got over Robin's murder and "died of a broken heart," after more than a year of being depressed and despondent.

Larron Crowstons & Robin Smiths gravesite (Edna Smith)
Larron Crowstons & Robin Smiths gravesite (Edna Smith)

Aftermath

On Wednesday, January 4, 1989, during jury selection, O'Neall abruptly and to the surprise of everyone, announced that he wanted to plead guilty to murdering Robin Smith.� To Edna's dismay, after being robbed of the right to a trial in her daughters death, ONeall received a life sentence, which in Washington amounted to a maximum sentence of 27 years and 9 months. He is now serving his time at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.� ONeall can, however, be released after serving as few as 18 years with time off for good behavior.� The police felt cheated, and Edna was of course disappointed in the system because she had wanted him to stand trial and was pushing the prosecutors to seek the death penalty.� She viewed O'Neall's actions of pleading guilty as an attempt to keep the sordid details of his crimes from becoming public knowledge.
In May of the following year, O'Neall was brought to Portland, Oregon, to face trial for the kidnapping and rape of the 14-year-old girl, to which he maintained his innocence. After attempting to shift the blame onto the girl for what had happened to her, he was convicted of most of the charges.
At his sentencing hearing in August 1990, defense lawyer Scott Raivio claimed that there was a connection between O'Neall's criminal history and his abuse of cocaine and methamphetamine.� Whenever he is away from drugs, said Raivio, O'Neall has "polite middle class values."� Despite Raivio's efforts, O'Neall was sentenced to 135 years in prison on a variety of charges stemming from the abduction and rape of the teenager, and Judge Kimberly Frankel ordered that the sentence run consecutively to the life sentence he had received for the murder of Robin Smith in Washington.
To date, the whereabouts of Wendy Aughe remains unknown, though investigators feel certain that she fell prey to O'Neall's murderous impulses.� Similarly, the Lia Szubert murder remains on the books due to a lack of physical evidence linking O'Neall to the crime, though detectives are equally certain that he killed her, too.� There are also other unsolved homicides in a number of states that authorities believe he may have committed.� O'Neall has expressed no remorse for any of his crimes, and reportedly has resigned himself to spending the rest of his life in prison.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Savage Weekend: Danny Rolling

"Grisly Gainesville"

On August 20 1990, the beautiful university town of Gainesville, Florida was ranked as being the thirteenth best place to live in the United States by Money magazine. By the end of the following week, American papers had renamed the town "Grisly Gainesville" after the bodies of five young students had been discovered brutally murdered and mutilated as they slept in their apartments. One weekend of savagery by one man transformed the excitement and anticipation of the beginning of a new semester into terror as hundreds of students fled, not knowing if and when he would strike again.
One week later the media reported that the police had their number one suspect in custody, which launched an ordeal of nightmarish proportions for Edward Humphrey and his family. His was the classic example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Emotionally disturbed with a long history of strange behavior and violent emotional outbursts, he had seemed to police and the many witnesses to his antics, to be a prime suspect. With no evidence to hold him, the authorities somehow succeeded in stretching the limits of the law and had him locked away while they built their case around him. Before they could, the real killer was found.
Danny�Harold Rolling had moved on after the murders in Gainesville and was eventually arrested for armed robbery in Ocala, Florida. It would be some time before he would be linked to the murders, and it would be longer still before Edward Humphrey's name would be cleared.
Danny Rolling's story tends to confirm the idea that the environment in which they spend their formative years encourages the development of serial killers. It would be impossible to know the account of Rolling's childhood and not feel compassion for the child who was abused, beaten and bullied by an over-bearing and disturbed father. It would be impossible not to feel anger toward his mother who time and time again refused to take any action to protect her own son. But Danny Rolling was not a child when he brutally murdered five young people at the threshold of their lives. Were the psychological scars from his childhood so deep that he was unable to control his malevolent impulses? Was the man who had come to be known as "The Gainesville Ripper" merely a victim of the brutality of his past? Should he have been treated with leniency or should he have felt the full weight of the law? These were the questions that a jury of twelve and one judge had to answer in 1994 when Danny Rolling was to be sentenced for five murders.

A Town's Terror

It was 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 26, 1990 when the Gainesville Police Department first became involved in the series of murders. Thirty-five year-old officer Ray Barber had been about to sign off at the end of his shift when the communications officer called him on his car radio. There was a complaint about loud music. Not unusual for this time of the year. The new semester was about to begin and the kids were celebrating, had been all weekend. The second message gave him no more concern than the first. It was a signal 64 a call to assist a citizen. Both were routine, he would stop by on his way home.

Christina Powell
Christina Powell
When he drove into the courtyard at the Williamsburg Village Apartments, the maintenance man was there to meet him. As Barber got out of his car, the man told him that he had a couple of anxious parents wanting him to open their daughter's apartment as they couldn't get her to answer the door. Unwilling to take responsibility himself he had called the police.
Barber was initially unconcerned as he received dozens of calls about "missing" kids, who usually turned up unharmed with no idea of the anxiety they had caused. It was only when the parents, Frank and Patricia Powell, told him that their daughter Christina, 17, had known they were driving over from Jacksonville that morning and had not been seen by anyone since early Friday morning, although her car was still parked nearby, that Barber began to feel uneasy. This feeling increased when the Powells told him that Christina's roommate, Sonja Larson, also 17, had not called her mother the day before as arranged.

Sonja Larson
Sonja Larson
Reluctantly, the Powells agreed to wait outside the building as Barber and the maintenance man went up to the girl's second-floor apartment. His bangs on the door produced no result, so Barber attempted to open the front door using a master key, but for some reason it wouldn't work. Breaking one of the glass panes, while not allowing him to open the door, which was dead-bolted, released a strong and unpleasant odor from within the apartment. As soon as the door crashed open under the force of the two men, Barber saw the bloodied naked body of a young woman posed grotesquely on a bed with her arms above her head. He found another young woman on the stairway down to the lower level of the apartment. Both women had been stabbed repeatedly, mutilated and deliberately positioned for maximum shock effect.
Back downstairs, the Powells anxiously waited for word from Barber. As soon as they saw his face and averted eyes they knew there would be no good news. Their first instinct was to go to their daughter, but Barber knew it was better for everyone if they didn't. He called in the double homicide asked for someone from the Alachua Crisis Center to help the parents.

Desperate for Details

Within minutes back-up had arrived, as many as twenty law enforcement personnel, including Chief of Police Wayland Clifton. Following closely on their heels was the media. Lieutenant Sadie Darnell was given the task of being media spokesperson. All she could tell them was that two young women had been murdered after someone apparently forced their way through the door, some time between 11:30 p.m. August 23 and 4: 00 p.m. August 26.
Long before the first headlines could be printed, word of the murders had spread through the Williamsburg Village Apartments. Although the police had not publicly released their names, the crowds that had gathered were soon whispering that the girls were freshmen, one from Palm Beach and the other from Jacksonville. No one knew them. All wondered how this could have happened without anybody hearing anything. One neighbor would recall that he had heard someone showering and playing loud music early on Friday morning, it was George Michael's 'Faith.' Then there had been a loud banging sound; he assumed that the girl's had been hanging pictures on the wall.
Spectators watched as a young woman walked from her car toward the building where the two victims had been found. She had been out of town over the weekend and had heard nothing of the day's events. When she approached the door to her building the uniformed officer on duty asked her name. When she told him it was Elsa Streppe, he called a plain-clothes officer over. Referring to a notebook, the two men talked in whispered tones. Elsa was escorted from the scene and taken to the Alachua County Crisis Center. Once inside she was told that her roommates, Christina Powell and Sonja Larson had been murdered. She almost collapsed from the shock. It was some time before it struck her just how closely she had come to meeting the same fate as her two friends.
As police continued to work into the night, questioning other residents, checking for fingerprints and other clues, further details of the crimes began to circulate, one of the girls had been mutilated somehow, something to do with her breasts. The fear and panic began to spread as the story traveled beyond the apartment block to the rest of the community.
Before police had even finished packing up and sealing the area they were called to another site where they were awaited by deputies Keith O'Hara and Gail Barber from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

Christa Hoyt

Gail Barber had spent the earlier part of the evening with her husband, Ray Barber, after he had made the gruesome discovery of Christina and Sonja's bodies. She would have liked to stay with him longer but she was on the roster for the midnight shift. She hadn't been on long before dispatch had called to ask them to drop by Christa Leigh Hoyt's apartment, just in case. Eighteen-year-old Christa worked the midnight shift as a records clerk at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office. She hadn't arrived for work and wasn't answering her phone. It was 12:30 a.m.
Gail knew Christa well and was sure that there would be some logical explanation for why she hadn't called in. The chances of two people from the same family being present at two separate murder discoveries in such a short space of time would be just too coincidental.

Christa Hoyt
Christa Hoyt
When O'Hara and Barber knocked on Christa's front door and there was no answer, they were almost relieved. She's probably left for work already, they told themselves. Then they saw her car, an older model Nissan Sentra, parked nearby. They knocked again, and then tried the door. It was locked. Hearing the noise, manager Elbert Hoover came out to investigate. The three of them went out to the back of the apartment. Hoover knew something was wrong the moment he saw that the gate had been damaged and the chain-link fence was down. As O'Hara and Barber went further into the backyard, they told Hoover to wait around the front for them. Once they established that there was no one in the yard, they tried the glass sliding door. It was locked from the inside.
They noticed that the bamboo shades over the door did not reach to the floor. They bent down on their hands and knees to peer under the curtain. Through the beam of the flashlight they could see what appeared to be a naked body seated on the edge of the bed. It was bent over at the waist with a small pool of blood at the feet, which were still clad in shoes and socks. They came to the shocking realization that the body didn't have a head.
The two officers ran back to their patrol car to notify the station. It was 1:00 a.m. Moments later the first of the investigating team had arrived. Barber and O'Hara quickly briefed Sergeant Baxter and Lieutenant Nobles, telling them that they had heard water running in the apartment. As there was a strong possibility that the killer was still inside, O'Hara and Barber were told to take up positions around the outside of the apartment, while Baxter and Nobles waited for more back-up to arrive. It was half an hour before they were ready to enter the building.
When they entered through the front door they moved slowly, ready for anything. The bathroom was first. They could hear the drip, drip of the shower but there was no one there. There were bloodstains on the floor of the shower. When they left the bathroom they saw Christa's lifeless head facing them, propped up on a bookshelf in the bedroom. In the bedroom, they saw the headless corpse of the once beautiful Christa, sitting at the end of the bed. On the bed next to her were her two nipples. Barely able to breathe, they checked under the bed and in the closets. Confident that the killer had long gone, the two officers made their way back outside.
As they walked out into the courtyard they saw that the Gainesville Police Chief, Wayland Clifton, had arrived from the Williamsburg Village Apartments, along with many of the other officers. Although they had no jurisdiction in this area, they needed to know for sure whether the murders were in any way linked.
With the preliminary examination completed it was time for the body to be moved. Alachua County's chief investigator gave the order. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw next. One of the officers let out a low growl when Christa was laid back. Apart from the breast mutilation, she had been carefully sliced from the breastbone to the pubic bone.

Task Force Formed

It was soon clear that the three murders were definitely linked. At both scenes, underwear were missing. A knife with a four-to-six inch blade had been used on all three girls, and the use of adhesive tape for restraint was evident, although it had been removed. At both scenes there were body parts missing.
As Sheriff Lu Hindery walked towards his car the crowd of reporters, which had gathered while he was inside Christa's apartment, met him. In answer to their barrage of questions, he told them some of the gruesome details, before getting into his car to drive back to the station. By the afternoon, the information available to the press was being strictly controlled. Already much of the most vital information was well known, and where facts were missing, fear and fertile imaginations had filled in the gaps.
The early stories in the local Gainesville Sun were gruesome even without embellishment. Newspapers were being sold as quickly as the shelves could be filled. Even without the headlines, the news was sweeping through the college community. The students, who could all identify with the victims, felt vulnerable. The viciousness of the crimes and the idea of a knife-wielding killer lurking in their midst only added to their fear. Christa's murder meant that the killer may not have known his victims and they were chosen opportunistically. They didn't even attend the same school. Christina and Sonja were freshmen at the University of Florida, while Christa was a sophomore at Santa Fe Community College. Anyone could be next.
First thing that Monday morning, Sheriff Lu Hindery, of Alachua County Sheriff's Office, and Wayland Clifton, of Gainesville Police Department, conferred and set the wheels in motion to create a combined task force. It was to include top crime-scene technicians and investigators from both departments, along with representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol, and ten of the top criminal behavioral specialists from the FBI. The task force was to be headed by three men: Lieutenant R.B. Ward was appointed by the GPD; Captain Andy Hamilton represented the ACSO; and Special Agent J.O. Jackson represented the FDLE.

Panic

On Monday night, the first press conference was held. Police attempted to reassure the public and put to rest some of the more frightening rumors that had begun to circulate, but due to the necessity of keeping many of the crime-scene details under wraps, there was little they could say to re-assure the frightened community. The fact was that three young women had been brutally murdered inside their apartments, probably by the same killer, who was still out there somewhere. There was little that could be said to make the situation less frightening.
The Gainesville phone lines were jammed as students called home to reassure parents of their safety, and parents phoned their children just to hear the sound of their voices. Callers from all over the country called the GPD, wanting to know whether it was true that there was a serial killer on the loose. Students, fearful of returning alone to their apartments, banded together, with as many as ten or twelve people staying together in the one apartment. No one walked alone at night, or during the day for that matter. Young women were wary of any young men they did not know, how could they be sure that the killer was not a fellow student. Nobody could be sure.
The panic and fear reached its zenith the next day, Tuesday, August 28, when two more bodies were found. This time one of them was male. Now it was not only the women in Gainesville who feared for their lives. Being male or having a male close by no longer offered anyone a sense of security.

Tracy Paules
Tracy Paules

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.
 

A Red Herring

When Officer Lonnie Scott of GPD had told her superiors about her neighbor, Edward Humphrey, they had already had a number of similarly strange reports from the many people who had come into contact with him over the summer period.
The manager of Gatorwood Apartments, where Tracy and Manuel had been murdered, reported that Humphrey had been asked to leave after he fought with his roommates, who said he was weird and walked in his sleep. When the maintenance man and the manager had attempted to make him leave he had become violent and thrown a chair at them. He had also been trouble when he had lived in the opposite apartment block, going into people's apartments uninvited and, when they dared to lock him out, he would peep through the curtains to get their attention.
In early August, Edward was in trouble again. He was arrested in Ordway, Colorado for disorderly conduct. His car was confiscated and he was held in custody for 24 hours until his grandmother Elna Hlavaty came to rescue him. She returned him to Gainesville and found him an apartment.
The police were quickly able to gather many reports of Edward's violent behavior towards his grandmother as the pair moved around town in search of an apartment. The numerous other independent reports about Edward made to the police included harassment and arguments and one instance where he produced a penknife at a fraternity house when they tried to stop him from coming in.
Edward Humphrey was definitely a strange character who, police believed, could possibly be the killer.� The investigation began to focus heavily on Edward as the prime suspect, beginning with their surveillance of Edward's every movement.� As he drove back to his grandmother's home in Indialantic on August 28, police helicopters hovered overhead. � On October 30 Edward gave the police an opportunity to place him in custody.

"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.
 

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.
 

An Important Lead

Meanwhile in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana authorities, responding to a Gainesville task force request for reports of similar crimes to the five they were investigating, noted the marked similarities between the Gainesville murders and a triple homicide which had occurred in Shreveport in November 1989. They also noted that a�Danny Harold Rolling, wanted in Shreveport for the attempted murder of his father in May 1990, was being held at the Marion County Jail. The link seemed flimsy to the task force until they were told that the Shreveport killer had cleaned his female victim with a blue-green liquid soap and deliberately positioned the body for maximum shock effect. It was then pointed out to the task force officer that all of the information was available in the FBI VICAP report. When these reports, received by the task force on October 16, 1990, were re-examined it was revealed that this important link had somehow been overlooked.
The Shreveport and Gainesville murders were compared and showed many more startling similarities. Both killers had shown knowledge of police investigative techniques by thoroughly cleaning the crime scenes; solvents were used to clean the victims' bodies, thereby eliminating clues; duct tape, a good source of fingerprint evidence, was used to bind the victims and was then removed from the scene; both killers used a similar means of forced entry; both used the same kind of knife; both raped and mutilated their victims and finally, both killers displayed the bodies of their victims in a notably gruesome and dramatic way. The similarities were too strong to ignore and the investigation of Danny Rolling began in earnest.
It began with an inquiry, by Special Agent Dennis Fisher, with the Marion County Jail about the status of prisoner Danny Harold Rolling. They were informed that he was being held on two charges, one armed robbery and one grand theft auto. There were also two holds on him from other law enforcement agencies; one from Shreveport for an attempted second-degree murder charge, and another from Hillsborough County, Florida for grand theft auto. Fisher requested that it be noted on Rolling's file that the Gainesville task force be informed if Rolling should leave the Marion County Jail.
The next step led to the discovery of the most significant link between Danny Rolling and the Gainesville student murders. The task force re-examined every crime that had occurred in the area during the time of the murders. When the robbery of the First Union National Bank on August 27, 1990, the day Christa Hoyt's body was discovered, was reviewed it was found that the culprit had abandoned his campsite in the woods and the Alachua County police held his belongings in storage. The items included bedding, a gun, a ski mask, a cassette tape deck and a screwdriver.
When the laboratory tests of the items were returned to the task force it was difficult for the officers involved to contain their excitement. Seventeen matches, between the screw-driver and the pry marks at the entry points of the three murder scenes, was confirmed, and a pubic hair, found through the vacuuming of the campsite, was found through DNA matching technology to belong to Christa Hoyt. A final, thorough search through all of the bank robber's belongings revealed his identity. A cassette tape, which had last been recorded on the night of the first murders, began with the words "... this is Danny Harold Rolling out under the stars tonight." The tape was a farewell tribute to Rolling's parents and ended with the words "... Well, I'm gonna sign off for a little bit. I got somethin' I gotta do..."

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.

Humphrey Cleared

The weeks leading up to Rolling's indictment had been a time of continual harassment of the Hlavatys and Humphreys by the media. Edward had still not been cleared of any suspicions against him and speculation that he and Rolling had worked together in the murders continued to abound. During the course of the grand jury hearing the Hlavatys and Humphreys remained barricaded in their home, vainly attempting to avoid reporters who remained camped outside of their home. The last straw came for Elna when a reporter ran up to the house, pounded on the front door and demanded that she answer his questions. Angry, she went outside to confront him. In the midst of their heated argument, Elna suddenly turned pale and began gasping for breath. Moments later she died of a massive coronary.
Two days later the Humphreys attended their grandmother's funeral. During the wake they were informed that the grand jury had indicted Danny Rolling on five counts of murder, three counts of sexual battery and three counts of armed burglary in the Gainesville case. Ed Humphrey had not been named in the indictment; his innocence, which his grandmother had fought so hard to uphold, was finally recognized.

Love at Last

In May 1992, Rolling was sent to Florida State Prison and placed in the psycho ward because of his many suicide attempts and a number of episodes of violent behavior. Here, apart from his prison duties, he spent his time exercising, drawing, writing songs and writing letters. In June he began to correspond with Sondra London, the self-proclaimed "media-queen" of inmate literature. She earned her living by publishing the art and writings of killers, especially those on death row. Although London and Rolling's relationship began as a business deal, they were soon publicly proclaiming their mutual love. The prosecution confiscated their letters and excerpts soon appeared in the Gainesville Sun, revealing London's attempts to get Rolling to write explicit details of the murders. Despite her many denials that profit was her motivation, she had copyrighted all of the drawings and letters Rolling had sent her and Rolling had signed an exclusive contract with her. London also made many media appearances including the "Geraldo" show in which she shared the London-Rolling love story.
When Rolling's parents, and many others, expressed their concern that London was using Rolling to her own advantage, Rolling was the first to come to her defense. In a letter he wrote on February 23, he wrote "I love her and it cuts me deeply to know there are people out there who have caused her pain because she finds something in Danny Rolling to love." He even went so far as to declare his love for London at one of his pre-trial hearings, and then suddenly began to sing a song he had written for her.

The Killer Confesses

Throughout the time prior to his trial Rolling had trouble keeping his mouth shut and many inmates made contact with the investigating team to relate stories of Rolling's "confessions," which fluctuated between penitent admissions of sin to bragging, depending on his mood. He formed a friendship with inmate Bobby Lewis, known as the only man to have escaped from Florida's death row. Rolling knew that escape was the only way he would ever get out of prison. Even if he wasn't convicted for the Gainesville murders, Rolling knew that Lewis could prove a helpful friend. In time Rolling told Lewis all about the murders in explicit detail. He admitted that he had decided to kill while he was in prison during the eighties, long before he came to Gainesville. He acknowledged that he had a bad side, which he couldn't always control but blamed his father's abuse and neglect, sexual abuse he experienced in prison and his ex-wife for this. Together Rolling and Lewis planned for Rolling to fake suicide in order to stay in the same ward, and then later escape.
His escape never took place and on January 31, 1993, Rolling informed the Gainesville investigators that he wished to confess, through Bobby Lewis. During the three-hour confession, Rolling did not answer any of the investigators questions directly but confirmed the answers given by Lewis on his behalf. Through Lewis, Rolling effectively confessed to planning and committing the five murders in Gainesville. He also told them that he had originally planned to kill eight people while in prison and that he would "...clear up the Shreveport homicides... after the Gainesville murders [trial]..." Rolling also shifted all responsibility for the murders onto an evil side of his personality that he called "Gemini."
While happy with Rolling's confession, the investigators didn't buy the "evil Gemini" aspect of his story, as they knew from their investigations that Rolling had watched the movie Exorcist Part III during the week of the Gainesville murders. The killer in this movie, known as Gemini, had decapitated and disemboweled a female victim. An attempt to recover the murder weapon in the location that Rolling had described, through Lewis, during his confession was unsuccessful.
Soon after the confession Lewis was moved from the ward, causing Rolling to feel betrayed by Lewis. In Rusty Binstead, Rolling found a new confidante but this time instead of only telling Binstead the details he wrote them down in a letter. He gave the original to Binstead with instructions to take a copy and then return it to him. Instead, when Binstead returned to his cell he told the man in the next cell to wait five minutes then call out "Shakedown." When he did, Binstead flushed his toilet to make Rolling believe that he had flushed the letter down the toilet.
Three weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin, Rolling asked for a meeting with his attorney, Public Defender C. Richard Parker. During this meeting Rolling expressed his desire to plead guilty. Parker attempted to convince his client that although there was a great deal of primary evidence against him and his videotaped confession had damaged his case, there was still a strong case for mitigating factors against a death sentence. If Rolling would maintain his not-guilty plea Parker would attempt to use Rolling's life story of abuse and the many psychiatric evaluations which established Rolling's mental illness. By pleading guilty, Parker warned, the likelihood of receiving a death sentence was much stronger, and it would leave no opportunity to have a conviction overturned in an appeal. He would only be able to appeal the sentence. Despite the warnings, Rolling was determined to go ahead with the change, admitting that much of the reason was that he didn't want the crime scene photographs to be shown. Parker asked Rolling to take the three weeks before the trial date to think about it.
The week before the trial, Rolling signed a three-page plea-form at the Florida State Prison, which effectively made his new guilty plea official. Just in case, Parker met with Judge Stanley R. Morris to inform him of his client's plea and request that it not be announced until February 15th when jury selection began. The only person to be informed of Rolling's decision was prosecutor Rod Smith.

A Plea of "Guilty"


Danny Rolling in court
Danny Rolling in court
In the courtroom on February 15 there were very few members of the public or the media. The families of the victims were all present but no one from Rolling's family was there; his mother, suffering from cancer, was too ill to attend. The only person present to support him was his fianc�e, Sondra London. None were expecting this stage of the proceedings to be of any great moment and the court settled in quickly. Rolling's announcement that he would be pleading guilty was received with shocked silence in the courtroom, while outside the reaction was explosive as the media converged upon the courthouse to get the latest word as the courtroom emptied. Danny Rolling had taken sole responsibility for the murders of the five young students, all that needed to be determined by the jury, that was finally selected nine days later, was whether he would receive the death penalty or not.
It was the responsibility of the jury to weigh in the balance the aggravating factors presented by the prosecution and the mitigating circumstances presented by the defense. According to Florida law there were 11 possible aggravating circumstances, at least one of these needed to be proved by the prosecution for the jury to determine that the death penalty was warranted. The defense had no restrictions on what evidence it could use as mitigating factors, its success would be determined by whether the jury believed that they were strong enough circumstances to outweigh the prosecution's case. Only seven of the twelve jurors needed to be in agreement to make a recommendation to the court and it was then up to the judge whether or not he would accept it.
Opening arguments began on Tuesday March 7, 1994. The prosecution claimed that it would be successful in proving 5 of the 11 possible aggravating circumstances laid down by the law:
  • The crimes were cold-blooded and premeditated
  • The crimes were committed during sexual battery
  • The crimes were particularly heinous, atrocious and cruel
  • The offender had a prior history of felony convictions
  • The crimes were committed for the purpose of escaping detection or avoiding arrests, particularly in the cases of Sonya Larson and Manuel Taboada.
The defense would attempt to prove the following mitigating circumstances:
  • The perpetrator suffered mental illness at the time of the crimes
  • The crimes were committed under extreme stress
  • The perpetrator grew up in an abusive household
  • There was a history of drug and alcohol abuse
  • The perpetrator showed remorse.


The Trial

If Rolling had hoped that a guilty plea would save him from the shame of having the details of his crimes made public he was sorely disappointed. State Attorney Rod Smith had no intention of leaving out any of the details of Rolling's crimes as he presented his death penalty case. One by one he brought forward the state's evidence against Rolling: the DNA matches with semen found at three of the sites; items found at Rolling's campsite including the screwdriver, duct tape and a pair of black pants stained with Manuel Taboada's blood; a handwriting match from a note found at one of the scenes; the many details of the murders and the crime scenes told to inmates by Rolling; proof of Rolling's purchase of a Ka-Bar knife matching the one that was used in the murders; the handwritten confession given to Rusty Binstead by Rolling and finally the videotaped confession Rolling made to investigators through Bobby Lewis.
Smith then presented the long list of Rolling's violent crimes, which alone constituted a strong mitigating factor. In total Rolling was held responsible for eight counts of armed robbery and one count of attempted robbery, one count of armed bank robbery and two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer, committed over four states. To further confirm in the jury's mind that Danny Rolling was a violent and sadistic killer who knew exactly what he was doing, Smith described in detail how Rolling tortured his victims. How he had told them everything he planned to do to them before he killed them, adding to the horror and fear they were already experiencing before they died. Proving that these crimes were committed during sexual battery and were particularly heinous and cruel.
Smith told the jury that the evidence he had presented established beyond every reasonable doubt that Danny Harold Rolling was guilty of all of the crimes alleged in the indictment and only the death sentence could respond to the horror Rolling had created.
The difficult task of proving to the jury that, despite the nature of his crimes, Danny Rolling did not deserve to die, was given to John J. Kearns, recognized in 1986 as the state's outstanding public defender.
To support their case, that Danny Rolling, a victim of constant physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father during his childhood, was mentally ill and not accountable for his actions, the defense team presented numerous relatives and friends and a barrage of psychiatrists who had spent a total of fifty hours evaluating Rolling. The first witnesses, neighbors and family members who had been witness to Rolling's formative years, laid the foundation for the defense case but the videotaped testimony of Rolling's mother, Claudia Rolling, proved to be the most revealing and humanizing.
Talking to both John Kearns, for the defense, and Jim Nilon, for the prosecution, Claudia Rolling told the story of her family and her eldest son's life.

The Making of a Monster

She had married James Rolling in 1953 when she was nineteen in Georgia. She had become pregnant with Danny only two weeks later, much to James' disgust. During the course of her pregnancy, James had struck her a number of times. She left him for the first time while she was still pregnant, moving to her parents' home in Shreveport but he followed her there and they continued the marriage.
After Danny was born on May 26, 1954, James' attitude toward fatherhood did not improve. Even when Danny was tiny, James would yell at him. The first incident of physical abuse occurred when Danny was crawling age. Instead of crawling he would pull himself along on his bottom with one leg. His father was infuriated by this behavior and one day he grabbed Danny by his foot and shoved him along the hallway, bouncing him as he went.
When Danny was four and his brother Kevin was three, Claudia again left James and moved to Columbus, Georgia. She and James had been arguing because James kept turning the television off as Claudia was watching it. The argument had ended when James punched her, cutting her lip. They remained separated for six months until Claudia succumbed to James's pleadings and promises and they got back together again. They lived in Columbus for four years until Claudia again left James because of his violent behavior. He was soon back again and they moved to Shreveport.
Claudia described the relationship between James and his two young sons and her feeble attempts to protect them. She would try to ensure that the boys had already had their dinner before James came home, as he would constantly abuse them for imagined transgressions they didn't sit properly, or didn't hold their cutlery properly, he even insisted that they breathe a certain way. The children would come to the table in fear if James was at home. Apart from verbal abuse, James would physically punish his children. Sometimes he would punish them with a belt and other times he would make a fist and grind his knuckle into the tops of their heads. Whatever the punishment, he would insist that they not cry out, under threat of further punishment.
The abuse was directed mostly at Danny and was a constant part of his life, with the verbal abuse occurring daily and the "whippings" at least once or twice a week. As the boys grew, they became more aware of their father's violence toward Claudia but their own fear of their father prevented them from helping. They would beg Claudia to leave James and never return, but she didn't. The boys were not allowed birthday parties and Christmas was always spoiled by James's abusive behavior.
One Christmas, when Danny was in third grade, the violence was particularly bad so Claudia packed up her boys and the Christmas tree into the car and left, but of course she did not stay away long. Soon after Claudia had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for some time. During that year Danny became very ill and was away from school a great deal, his teacher told Claudia that it would be best for the child if he repeated the year. She also recommended that Danny receive counseling for his nervousness and personality problems. He never received that counseling. Instead his father berated him for his failure.

A Downward Spiral

Claudia then related how Danny had attempted to commit suicide. He was in his early teens and had just started his first job. His father told him he couldn't go back to work because his grades were bad. Danny had been so upset that he ran from the house, his father followed close behind him. In the backyard James began to beat Danny, holding him up against the shed wall, when Danny ducked away from one of his blows, James's hand went through the window cutting him severely. While James went to the hospital, Danny went to the bathroom to clean himself up. He had been in there some time before Claudia went in to check on him. He was gone. He had written on the mirror in lipstick, "I tried. I just can't make it," and left through the window taking a razor blade with him. He told his mother later that he had tried to cut his own wrists but just couldn't do it.
The stories of abuse and violence continued, James, a police officer, had even thrown his son in juvenile hall for a couple of weeks during his mid-teens because Danny had been drinking beer with a neighbor. The relationship between Danny and his father did not improve as Danny approached adulthood, and Danny's problems became manifest. In 1971 he joined the Air Force but was discharged because of serious drug and alcohol problems. He married O'Mather Halko in 1974 but despite the birth of a daughter, the marriage lasted less than three years. He was devastated for some time afterwards and the situation living at home with his father had not improved, so Danny had left home and begun to wander. Claudia did not hear from him until after his arrest for armed robbery in Montgomery and Columbus. Danny had told her that he had hoped that during the robbery he would be shot. He had tried to commit suicide but once again had not been able to go through with it. During the time he was in prison he attempted to escape twice but was re-caught. His return home saw no improvement, and he soon moved on again.
In Mississippi, Danny was again arrested and imprisoned for armed robbery. The first time Claudia went to see him he had seemed very distressed and very thin, but on her second visit the change in him was astounding. He had put on weight and was bodybuilding; he seemed to have learned to cope with life in prison. In 1988 he was back home again. Again he had trouble finding work and he was almost constantly depressed. When he did find work he was usually fired a short time later, the longest he lasted was two months.
Claudia then described the situation when she last saw her son. She had just got home from work and could tell that something had transpired between father and son, as they were both very tense. As she talked to Danny, he put his foot on the bench to tie his shoelace, when his father walked into the room he began yelling at him but this time Danny didn't just take it. Instead he challenged James to do something about it. James went to the back of the house and returned with his gun. Danny ran out the back door with his father in pursuit. Claudia heard three shots outside and thought that her son was dead when her husband returned alone. When Danny returned to the house Claudia did not see a gun in his hand. The last thing she saw was James holding his gun. She covered her eyes before the gunshots began, and then without looking, fled to her bedroom. There were five shots fired and then silence. She thought that both her husband and son must be dead. When she returned to the kitchen she found James. He was lying on the floor, still conscious, despite a bullet in his head. She called the police. James survived the shooting but she did not see Danny again until after his imprisonment in Marion County Jail.

The Verdict

Claudia's testimony had given the jury much to consider. Was Danny Rolling's childhood trauma enough to absolve him of full responsibility for his later actions? Their dilemma was not helped much by the testimony of three psychiatrists. All agreed that, as a result of his father's abuse and his mother's failure to protect him from it, Danny Rolling had a severe personality disorder and functioned at the maturity level of a fifteen-year-old, but, under cross-examination conceded that he did not suffer from multiple-personalities and was aware of the criminality of his actions during and after the murders. It would take the jury almost two days to resolve these issues and make a determination. The jury had decided that Danny Rolling should receive the death penalty on all five counts.
It was now up to the judge to review the aggravating and mitigating factors and make an independent judgment, taking the jury's recommendation fully into account. He would announce his final judgment on April 20, 1994 after giving all parties concerned, the victims' families, Rolling's family and Danny Rolling himself, an opportunity to state their case to him personally.
In the meantime on March 30 the Shreveport Police cited James Rolling for the "simple battery" of his wife during a domestic dispute. On the same day, Rolling confessed to the triple murder of the Grissom family in Shreveport.
The day of sentencing finally arrived, three and a half years after the murders were committed. Judge Morris, aware that any grounds for appealing the sentence could come from what he said, measured his words carefully. One by one he reviewed all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that had been presented during the trial. He noted all aspects of Rolling's history and the findings of all of the doctors, disputing none. He agreed that Rolling functioned at a considerably immature level and that his personality disorder did impair his ability to conform to the requirements of the law, but, it was not at a level which could be considered by the law as being substantial. He found that Rolling's disorder was a non-statutory mitigating factor and gave it only moderate weight. Judge Morris found, as did the jury, that the aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating and ordered that Danny Harold Rolling be sentenced to death for all five victims.

Florida State Prison
Florida State Prison
Rolling was sent to the state prison in Starke, where he would be on death row until the customary appeal process was exhausted, and then he would be executed.