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State executes notorious serial killer



Published: Thu, October 26, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The killer pleaded guilty in 1994.

STARKE, Fla. (AP) -- Danny Harold Rolling, Florida's most notorious serial killer since Ted Bundy, was executed by injection Wednesday 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.

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."

Protesters

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."

Death penalty protesters said the execution only served to provide Rolling additional attention.

"The state of Florida is giving this psychopathic killer just what he wanted," said Mark Elliott of Clearwater, spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Rolling was calm and cooperative ahead of the execution, Corrections Department spokesman Robby Cunningham said. He spent several hours with his brother Kevin and his brother's pastor, officials said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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