Jury Convicts Gainesville Murder Suspect of Burglary
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Gainesville slayings suspect Danny Rolling was convicted today of burglary and theft in a break-in last year during which he placed a long distance call to his Louisiana hometown.
A six-member jury deliberated two hours before convicting the 37-year-old drifter in the second of three Tampa burglary trials.
Prosecutors said the 20-minute call to his mother’s home during the Sept. 2, 1990, burglary was crucial.
″That was our whole case,″ said assistant state attorney Cass Castillo. ″We had nothing until we found out about the phone call.″
The case stemmed from a Tampa crime spree that came only days after five college students were found slain in apartments near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville in August 1990.
Today’s conviction could bring Rolling 30 years in prison in addition to his sentence on his first Tampa burglary trial, which could range up to 40 years, plus up to 50 years if sentenced as a habitual offender. Castillo said negotiations are taking place in the last burglary case against Rolling.
During the Sept. 2, 1990, home burglary, the intruder drank some fruit juice and stole a bicycle and a paycheck stub.
Authorities said that stub was found five months later during a search of Rolling’s personal papers. On the back was written his mother’s name, Claudia Rolling, and her number, to call ″In case of emergency.″ It was the same number called from the burglary scene, prosecutors said.
Public defender Mary Lou Cuellar said in her closing argument that just because a call was made doesn’t mean Rolling made it.
″What better way to put the focus of a burglary on someone else than to place a call that will show up on a bill,″ she said. ″Anyone could get that name from directory assistance.″
Rolling, 37, already has been sentenced to life behind bars for the robbery of an Ocala grocery store. He faces another life term for his conviction in the robbery of a Tampa grocery store.
Rolling also faces sentencing for his conviction last week on charges of burglarizing a Tampa home and stealing a car.
Rolling has been named as a suspect in the August 1990 robbery of a Gainesville bank. He also is being investigated in a 1989 triple slaying in his hometown of Shreveport.
No charges have been filed in the Gainesville student murders. Prosecutors plan to present evidence to a grand jury in November against Rolling and former University of Florida student Edward Humphrey.