A task force investigating last August's mutilation slayings of five college students named a prime suspect Friday: Danny Harold Rolling, who is jailed in an unrelated grocery store robbery.
John Joyce, a spokesman for the investigators, made the announcement at a news conference here as a court in Ocala was deciding whether Rolling was competent to plead guilty to the holdup."The naming of Rolling as the prime suspect does not necessarily exclude other individuals who may still be under investigation. The homicide investigation is continuing," Joyce said, adding that Rolling had been under investigation for six months.
Rolling, 37, also has been identified as a suspect in the slayings of three people in his hometown of Shreveport, La., where he is wanted in the shooting of his father, a retired police officer.
"It took this long to get our case where we wanted it to feel comfortable naming any suspects," Joyce said. "We had so many leads and so much information to deal with, we felt like we wanted to look at every avenue and make sure that we were in good shape in coming forward and naming an individual as we are today."
Rolling has not been charged in the Gainesville slayings, and no timetable has been set for presenting the case to a grand jury, Joyce said.
"I think we are talking about months," he said. "I can't narrow it down."
Sources have said for months that Rolling was a suspect in the killings of the five University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College students. Genetic tests linked him to at least one of the three crime scenes - all off-campus apartments, the sources said.
On Aug. 26, the mutilated bodies of Christina Powell, 17, and Sonja Larson, 18, were found. Hours later, the decapitated body of Christa L. Hoyt, 18, was discovered. The bodies of Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada, both 23, were found at their apartment Aug. 28.
Marion County Judge John Futch, who accepted Rolling's guilty plea on the robbery charge last year, testified Thursday that Rolling appeared in control of himself and there was "absolutely nothing unusual" in his behavior.
But the defense has said Rolling was mentally incompetent in that court appearance.
Dr. William Corwin, a psychiatrist who examined Rolling on Nov. 21 for the defense, testified he was a psychotic individual with a "schizophrenic-type condition."