Florida slayer put to death by injection

By Ron Word The Associated Press

STARKE, Fla. – Danny Harold Rolling, Florida’s most notorious serial killer since Ted Bundy, was executed by injection yesterday for butchering five college students in a ghastly string of slayings that terrorized Gainesville in 1990.

Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. EDT, more than 16 years after his killing rampage at the start of the University of Florida’s fall semester.

When asked for a last statement, Rolling sang for two minutes what sounded like a hymn with the refrain “none greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee,” witnesses and prison officials said.

He appeared to continue singing after prison officials turned off the microphone, finally stopping just before he died.

The bodies of his victims were found over three days in late August, just as the University of Florida’s fall semester was beginning. All had been killed with a hunting knife. Some had been mutilated, sexually assaulted and put in shocking poses. One girl’s severed head had been placed on a shelf, her body posed as if seated.

The killing spree touched off a huge manhunt and plunged the laid-back college town into panic. Students fled and residents armed themselves.

Belongings that Rolling left at a campsite in the woods and DNA taken after a later arrest for robbery linked him to the slayings. When he came up for trial in 1994, he shocked the courtroom by pleading guilty.

“There are some things you just can’t run from, this being one of those,” Rolling told the judge.

He later told The Associated Press: “I do deserve to die, but do I want to die? No. I want to live. Life is difficult to give up.”

Dianna Hoyt, whose stepdaughter was slain, said the execution marked “the final chapter of this book.”

“This man brought this outcome to himself, and the law of the land carried through to show us justice,” Hoyt said.

Outside the prison, death penalty opponents stood in a circle singing “Amazing Grace” after Rolling was pronounced dead.

Other onlookers supported the execution. “They’re doing a good thing,” said Randy Hicks, 35, a truck driver and former prison guard who occasionally watched over Rolling. “This guy deserves it. It’s very overdue.”