Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crane climber Carl Roland goes on trial in 2005 slaying of girlfriend

Carl Edward Roland climbed atop a 25-story construction crane in Atlanta while wanted in connection with a Pinellas County murder. He stayed on the crane and on national news for days.

But for Jennifer L. Gonzalez's family, the pain has been much more private and much longer-lasting than Roland's bizarre days in the spotlight in 2005.

Her mother, Cindy LeVan, said the pain of losing her 36-year-old daughter is "indescribable. You just sit back and hope nobody else will ever have to go through this."

Gonzalez was a friendly, artistic, fun-loving person, she said, and "her children meant the world to her. She was full of life and it was taken far too soon."

Roland's goes on trial this week on a first-degree murder charge, four years after Gonzalez's death. LeVan and other family members plan to attend.

Gonzalez, who grew up in Pinellas Park, was a mother of two girls, ages 4 and 14 at the time of her death. She taught preschool and worked at Target.

She and Roland dated on and off for four years. He was 41 then, working as a computer software salesman.

On the Sunday before her death, Roland told a couple he knew that Gonzalez had been cheating on him. He asked if they knew how he could get a gun so he could kill her, according to court records.

On the following Tuesday, sheriff's investigators say Roland went to Gonzalez' Oldsmar apartment and strangled her. Her body was found in a nearby retention pond.

Roland's trial was stalled in 2006 when a judge declared him mentally incompetent, and unable to stand trial. He was transferred to a state mental health facility.

In cases like this, defendants who make progress in treatment and can understand the nature of the charges against them can later be declared mentally competent. Roland is now considered mentally fit for trial.

But for Gonzalez' family, the delay prolonged the pain.

"We cannot help but wonder what state of mind Jennifer was in as she was fighting for her life," family members wrote in a letter to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters.

"We know what state of mind our entire family has been in since losing Jennifer. Until the matter now facing the court is moved forward and justice is served, the anxiety and depression that our family has felt every day, will continue to be felt every day."

Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning.

Crane climber Carl Roland goes on trial in 2005 slaying of girlfriend 02/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 8:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick Scott has lunch with President Donald Trump


    Gov. Rick Scott had lunch Thursday with President Donald Trump, the latest in a series of get togethers between the political allies.

    Trump and Scott are grabbing lunch today.
  2. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  3. At 'American Idol' auditions in Orlando, there are life lessons in line

    Music & Concerts

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — From her spot across the lawn, Sasha Orihuela studies her son.

    Jeremy Joshua Dorsey reacts after past American Idol contestants walk by ahead of his audition at the Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017. 

Hundreds of people showed up for the first auditions for ABC's reboot of 'American Idol'. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  4. Lockdown: Florida's 97,000 prison inmates confined through weekend

    State Roundup

    All of Florida's 97,000 state prison inmates are on lockdown — and will remain confined to their dorms at least through the weekend — in response to unspecified threats about possible uprisings, officials from the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

    Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  5. Kevin Cash: 'We've got to turn it around. ... Time is of the essence'


    The question to manager Kevin Cash was about a rematch with the Mariners this weekend at the Trop, but he made clear this afternoon that with his Rays losing nine of their last 12 that they have to treat every game as essential.

    "We've got to start playing good baseball games whether we match up well against that team or not," Kevin Cash said.