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How woman's hunch about 'gruesome' murders helped catch killer

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·3-min read

A woman whose tip-off led to the arrest and conviction of a serial killer has revealed how a "hunch" led to her picking up the phone to contact the police. 

Cindy Juracich, from Shreveport in the US state of Louisiana, was holidaying with her husband and children in Gainesville in the US state of Florida in August 1990 when she caught on to something odd

Television news reports were broadcasting about five college students local to the Gainesville area that had been killed in a period of four days - four had been mutilated, cleaned and posed in sexually provocative positions.

Sonja Larson and Christina Powell were the first women brutally murdered, with Christina Hoyt was killed a day later and Tracy Paules and her male roommate, Manny Taboada, two days after that.

Cindy Juracich
Cindy Juracich made a call to police three months after returning from her Florida holiday, and it led to the killer's conviction. Source: ABC News

The gruesome style of the killings reminded Ms Juracich of events that unfolded in her hometown the year before, involving three women and one who had been partially mutilated, cleaned and posed.

"I said to my husband [at the time] there's a connection between Shreveport and Florida," Ms Juracich said in an episode of 20/20, an American series featuring real-life human interest stories. 

Three months after returning to her home state, Ms Juracich still had a hunch there was a connection between both mass killings. 

She was even confident she knew who was behind the crimes, which she described as "gruesome murders". 

Danny Rolling (pictured in 1994) confessed to both sets of killings and was executed in 2006. Source: AP
Danny Rolling (pictured in 1994) confessed to both sets of killings and was executed in 2006. Source: AP

Ms Juracich ended up contacting Crime Stoppers and detailed her theory, including her suspicion that a man named Danny Rolling was the perpetrator. 

Rolling had reportedly told her husband that he "liked to stick knives into people" - a comment that had always played on her mind. 

"One day, I picked up the phone, I called Crime Stoppers, and I said, 'I think there's one guy y'all need to investigate — Danny Rolling'," she said. 

Rolling had spent time in prison for armed robbery and was detained in September 1990 for an unrelated burglary charge. He soon became the prime suspect. 

Christina Powell, Christa Leigh Hoyt, and Sonya Larson were killed in August 1990 by Rolling. Source: AP
Christina Powell, Christa Leigh Hoyt, and Sonya Larson were killed in August 1990 by Rolling. Source: AP

Police ended up finding a tape recorder containing a cassette that featured Rolling that had been discarded in a wooded area near the scene of one of the Gainesville murders.

Police determined that Rolling had alluded to the killings on the tape, and used that evidence when confronting him, which ultimately led to his confession of both the Florida and Louisiana killings. 

He was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death, being executed in 2006. 

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