True Story Behind Scream

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Into The Mind

True Story Behind Scream

Everyone is talking about the latest Scream coming this week. Besides my pure hate for the new name trend of using the original name for sequels, I just wish they would stop with the trailers. I don’t need 30 minutes of trailers for a 114-minute movie. I’m sold already, I will be watching it. I don’t need more clips giving away everything. Anyway, back to the topic.

Some people don’t know that Scream is inspired by an actual killer. In the before time of 1994, a poor struggling screenwriter and actor; Kevin Williamson was fascinated by news of the trial of Gainesville Ripper.  The Ripper was a drifter who murdered five college students over three days in August 1990. Fascinated and scared, Williamson wrote out the screenplay for Scream, which became a 1996 success that gave new life to the slasher genre.

Who was Danny Rolling the Gainesville Ripper? He was born in 1954 in Shreveport, Louisiana, to 19-year-old Claudia and a police officer James Rolling, a decorated Korean War veteran who may have suffered some combination of PTSD and inherent mental illness. Controlling and violent, James heaped verbal and physical attacks on his family

During these early years, he developed multiple personalities as a "defense" from the nightmarish reality around him, with attempts at suicide failing to bring an escape. After school, he joined the Air Force, but was kicked out in 1972 after getting busted for drug possession, Rolling went to live with his grandfather and, for a time, found some stability through his church. He married a woman named O'Mather Halko, with whom he had a daughter, but eventually, he drove her away after displaying the same abuse that had been prevalent in his own childhood home.

Already harboring a habit for voyeurism and plagued by disturbing visions, Rolling took a turn for the worse after the divorce. He raped a woman who resembled his ex-wife and embarked on several armed robberies through the South, leading to his incarceration in Jackson, Georgia, in 1979. The 1980s brought more of the same for Rolling, who was in and out of jail in Alabama and Mississippi for armed robbery. His time in between stints in jail was spent traveling the country, stealing, and raping.

November 1989, Rolling was fired from his job at a restaurant. That same night, he broke into a home to murder 24-year-old Julie Grissom, her eight-year-old nephew, Sean, and her 55-year-old father, Tom. Echoing his later killings, Julie was found with bite marks and her body arranged with her legs spread on the bed. The following May, Rolling got into one final argument with his father. This time he pulled out a gun and shot James in the stomach and head. His father survived but lost the use of an eye and ear. Rolling flees to Kansas then to Florida, eventually arriving in Gainesville.

In 1990, he set up a campsite in a wooded area behind the University of Florida, Rolling embarked on his murder spree as students began the fall semester. On August 24, he slipped into the home of UF freshmen Christina Powell and Sonja Larson and brutally stabbed and raped both students. The following day, he made Santa Fe Community College student Christa Hoyt his next victim, leaving behind her severed head on a shelf to face her body propped up on the bed.

On August 27, the killer surfaced again at the home of two 23-year-old UF students, Manuel Toboada and Tracy Paules. A former high school football player, Toboada put up a fight before both were overwhelmed; neither body was mutilated this time. As Rolling skipped town, a local task force was assembled to calm a frantic community and find answers.  Meanwhile, the killer they were looking for was already in jail. In September, Rolling had robbed a Winn-Dixie grocery at gunpoint in Ocala, Florida, and was nabbed after crashing the getaway car. It wasn't until early next year, when authorities used a tooth extracted from Rolling to link him to the DNA evidence at the Gainesville crime scenes, that he became a primary suspect.


Rolling was formally charged with the murders of the five Gainesville students in June 1992. Around this time, Rolling began corresponding with journalist Sondra London, who would become his fiancée and help him put together The Making of a Serial Killer. And while he had pleaded not guilty, he used fellow inmate Bobby Lewis as his "mouthpiece" to confess to the murders.


In February 1994, just before the start of his trial, Rolling abruptly changed his plea to guilty. To determine the sentence, jurors listened to testimony from his mother, who recounted the abuse the defendant had received at the hands of his father, and from a psychiatrist, who described an alternate personality of Rolling's named "Gemini," who drove him to his sadistic acts.

Two other psychiatrists also testified that a severe personality disorder was in play, but stated their belief that Rolling understood the magnitude of his crimes. The jury unanimously found Rolling guilty of first-degree murder on all five counts in late March, and a month later he was sentenced to death.

His appeals exhausted, Rolling faced execution at Florida State Prison on October 25, 2006. In his final moments, he regaled the 47 people crammed into the witness room with one of his songs, a religious hymn with the refrain "none greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee." His microphone was then cut off, ending a life story as twisted as any that could appear on the big screen.

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