Rolling Executed: A Look Back to 1990
By Grayson Kamm
First Coast News
Read Rolling's Letter
SHREVEPORT, LA -- Just hours before he was executed earlier this week, serial killer Danny Rolling confessed to three other killings in Louisiana.
Rolling was put to death Wednesday night for the murders of five students in Gainesville, Florida in a 1990 terror rampage.
In Danny Rolling's hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, an attacker stabbed three members of the Grissom family to death in November, 1989. William "Tom" Grissom, 55, his daughter Julie, 24, and his 8-year-old grandson Sean were murdered after the killer slipped in through an unlocked door. It happened ten months before the Gainesville murders.
Rolling has long been the prime suspect for police in the case. Friday, investigators announced that moments before his execution, Rolling confessed to killing the Grissoms. Police say Rolling slipped a note to his minister hours before he was led into the death chamber. The confession reads:
"In order to fulfill all things that no stone be unturned. Here by I make a formal written statement concerning the murders of Julie, Tom & SEAN GRISSOM in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana ... HAL CARTER, Julie Grissom's former fiancee is 100% INNOCENT -- TOTALLY PURE of that crime. I, and I alone am guilty. It was my hand that took those precious lights out of this ole dark world. With all my heart & soul would I could bring them back. Being a native son of Shreveport, I can only offer this confession of deep felt remorse over the loss of such fine -- outstanding souls.
"Have wept an ocean of tears ... By which mournful doth float 'pon a sea of regret."
The message matched dusty old evidence still on the shelves of Shreveport detectives. Police there have long called Rolling their top suspect. "This was not news to us. We knew this a long time ago," said one of two retired Shreveport Police detectives who investigated the case.
Right after three members of the Grissom family were found butchered in Shreveport, police focused on the woman's fiancé as their top suspect. It stayed that way until August, 1990 -- ten months later. That's when a string of five similar, vicious murders in Florida caught the attention of detectives in the Shreveport case.
"At the time, DNA was in its infancy. We didn't have DNA to rely on. We had very little evidence -- scene evidence -- to help us to eliminate anybody," explained retired detective Don Ashley.
Florida police eventually linked Danny Rolling to the five murders in Gainesville. Then, a letter Rolling sent from jail tied him to the grisly Grissom murders. With that letter and more, Shreveport Police declared Rolling was their man. "I think for both of us that book had already been closed a while back as far as knowing he was the one responsible," Ashley said, speaking alongside his partner Friday.
But now -- finally and undeniably -- the Grissom family knows Rolling is the killer.
Family members of the Grissoms were among the 47 people who watched Danny Rolling die Wednesday. Plans for them to attend were made long before the confession. After the execution, they spoke out.
"We will never have closure on this, until we close our eyes -- all of us parents -- for the last time. But thank God we had great kids, we have great memories, and that's what keeps me going on," said Julie Grissom's mother, Joyce Burton.
"I think it was too easy on him. But what can you do? He's gone now, and I'm thankful for that," added Zachary Thompson, the brother of Sean Grissom. Murdered at age eight, Sean would have turned 25 the day before Rolling's execution.
Some of Rolling's cellmates say he confessed to the Shreveport murders, and investigators did have other evidence linking him to the crimes. But the case against Rolling in Florida was much stronger, so Shreveport prosecutors decided not to take their case any further, out of fear it might foul things up in the Gainesville cases.
Rolling told his minister he wanted to confess for two reasons. First, he wanted to clear the original suspect -- Julie Grissom's fiancé -- of any suspicion. Rolling said he also wanted to show his regret to the Grissom family.
First Coast News