LARGO — Just before he climbed on top of a 25-story construction crane in the Buckhead area of Atlanta in May 2005 — creating a 56-hour spectacle that made national news — Carl Edward Roland admitted that he killed someone, prosecutors say.
On the opening day of Roland's trial Tuesday, prosecutor Fred Schaub told jurors that Roland told some people in Atlanta that "he took the life of another human being."
Roland then climbed the crane as Pinellas sheriff's detectives were pursuing him on suspicion that he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer L. Gonzalez, outside her Oldsmar apartment.
Police later coaxed him down, but not before the standoff was broadcast on 24-hour cable news shows. Roland was taken to the Pinellas County and booked into jail on the murder charge.
At the start of his trial Tuesday, Roland, a former computer software salesman, was dressed in a dark suit with his head shaved.
Roland has tried to get his lawyer, John T. White, removed from his case before, and expressed his displeasure with White again in court Tuesday.
"There is no defense," Roland said to Judge Timothy Peters.
Roland said White, a court-appointed lawyer, didn't ask enough questions of three witnesses called by prosecutors Tuesday.
The witnesses were Gonzalez's best friend, her ex-boss and a bartender with whom Roland had discussed relationship problems.
Peters asked White if his decision not to question certain witnesses was a tactical one, and White said it was. There was no reason to grill Gonzalez's best friend, for example, and "get her crying," White said.
Peters told Roland his complaints were not legally sufficient for him to get a new attorney.
Schaub told jurors that Gonzalez, 36, was murdered at Westminster apartments in Oldsmar. She lived in the apartment with her two girls, who were 4 and 14 at the time.
Schaub said Roland was upset that Gonzalez had broken up with him. He came to her apartment in May 2005 and asked her to come outside to talk. The children were at home at the time.
Gonzalez's body was found shortly after in a retention pond next to the apartments. An autopsy later would show she had been strangled.
Gonzalez's former manager at the Largo Mall Target, Milton Cason, said Roland had come by the store before the time of the killing and spoke to Gonzalez for about half an hour. He said he knew they were having relationship problems.
A bartender, Sean Sturgeon, said Roland complained about girlfriend problems just before the killing and called Gonzalez a "b----."
Gonzalez's best friend, Jana Diaz, said Gonzalez was "very outgoing, fun-loving, loved to be silly, got along with everyone that she met."
The trial resumes today.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232.