Florida History: Ted Bundy and Danny Rolling were named America’s most wanted
Readers: The University of Florida and Florida State University are rivals in both sports and academics. But they were grimly linked via two of Florida's, and America's, most notorious serial killers.
Early on Super Bowl Sunday in 1978, a man worked his way into the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee, at the edge of the FSU campus. He severely beat Lisa Levy, 20, and Margaret Bowman, 21, with a tree limb in their bedrooms, then strangled them. Three other sorority sisters who were assaulted survived.
Three weeks later, and about 100 miles to the east, in Lake City, 12-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach didn't come home from school. Her body would be found two months later in an abandoned pigsty some 30 miles away.
A week after Kimberly vanished, a Pensacola police officer spotted a suspicious car that turned out to be stolen. Ted Bundy was fingerprinted then arrested. His name was on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
He would be convicted in Leach's death and would die at 42 years old in Florida's electric chair on Jan. 24, 1989, almost 11 years to the day after the FSU murders.
"If there's ever been anyone in Florida's Death Row that deserved the electric chair," Gov. Bob Martinez said after the execution, "Ted Bundy was that individual."
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In his final days, he’d confessed to a string of at least 30 murders. Authorities confirmed he was responsible for 16 slayings in Florida and western states, and they strongly suspected him in 36 more.
Just after the FSU murders, fearing the killer at FSU had a yen for college campuses, the University of Florida had become unnerved and beefed up precautions. UF’s time would come later.
In 1990, in a stretch of just three days, five people were brutally murdered.
Aug. 26: Christina Powell, 17, of Jacksonville and Sonja Larson, 18, of Pompano Beach. Aug. 27: Christa Hoyt, 18, of Archer. Aug. 28: Manuel Taboada and Tracy Paules, both 23, of Miami.
Five months after the murders, on Jan. 24, 1991, authorities declared their prime suspect was Danny Rolling, jailed in Ocala for a supermarket robbery. A DNA match sealed the deal. As a lengthy trial was to begin in 1994, Rolling surprisingly announced he was pleading guilty.
Twelve years later, in October 2006, Rolling died of lethal injection. In lieu of last words, he sang a hymn.
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Next week: Hypocrite's Row Part II
From a reader: Dear Eliot, I enjoy your column every Sunday in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. A fact that does not relate to German spies, per se, but to German nationals infiltrating into Florida at the end of WWII, two U-Boats were found scuttled off Florida beaches. Both had high ID numbers which placed them among subs built just before the defeat of Germany and both were undamaged which indicated they were intentionally sunk by the occupants. This leads to the conclusion that an unknown number of Germans came ashore in that time and disappeared into this country. One of those two U-boats was found about ten miles east of Port Canaveral in 1963 and the other was found near Egmont Key in the channel leading into Tampa Bay.
Eliot Responds: Mr. Wooden: Can you provide some documentation or sources for the discovery of these two U-boats?
Eliot Kleinberg has been a staff writer for the past three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and is the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). Florida Time is a product of GateHouse Media and publishes online in their 22 Florida markets including Jacksonville, Fort Walton Beach, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Sarasota and West Palm Beach. Submit your questions, comments or memories to FloridaTime@Gatehousemedia.com. Include your full name and hometown. Sorry; no personal replies.