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2 students murdered in Gainesville; fears of more serial killings revived

Over and over, officials repeated what they hoped would be calming news: The murders of two University of Florida students did not appear to be connected to last summer's serial killings. But that was little solace for the 16,000 students who are here for summer session.

Body bags again were being carried out of an isolated student apartment.

Police again were swarming through this idyllic university town.

And fear, just subsiding after the trauma of last August, again was everyone's constant companion.

"It doesn't really matter who's been killing," UF freshman Apurva Dave said. "It just matters that people are dying."

The victims this time were roommates. Carla Marie McKishnie, 22, a graduate student from Brandon, and Eleanor Anne Grace, 20, daughter of a prominent Fort Myers lawyer.

As with the five student murders last summer, police were releasing limited details Friday.

The bodies were discovered by a boyfriend of one of the women early Friday morning. Both apparently had been strangled, their bodies left in the apartment's upstairs area. Both were fully clothed. There was no mutilation.

Lt. Spencer Mann, spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff's Department, said investigators found no sign of forced entry into the apartment. Police say they have neither suspects nor a motive.

Investigators were searching surrounding apartments to make certain there were no other victims.

For the second time in less than a year, Gainesville again was a community struggling to cope _ its institutions and residents quickly reverting to the siege mentality the five killings last summer had instilled:

Students and residents were talking of carrying guns and staying with friends.

Gov. Lawton Chiles flew in from Tallahassee to announce extra Florida Highway Patrol officers would come to town.

Parents from throughout the state called to check on children and, in some case, recommended an immediate departure from Gainesville.

UF administrators reactivated special steps taken last fall _ a rumor hot line, a phone bank for calls to parents. They also offered on-campus housing to students who feared for their safety.

"What we're hoping is that people don't panic," UF spokesman Linda Gray said. "We are doing all we can to assure student safety and we don't yet know the true nature of these crimes."

The murder scene, the Casablanca West Apartments, is tucked back into deep woods _ similar to the land that surrounded the three murder scenes last fall.

More than 75 percent of UF's 34,000 students live in off-campus apartments like these that offer more seclusion and more freedom than the on-campus dormitories.

Throughout the city, students who didn't know the victims were remembering how to cope when violence strikes close by.

"This has almost put me where we left off" in August, said Jamie Foreman, 19, a UF junior from DeFuniak Springs. "I guess everybody is worrying right now if there are going to be any more."

Suzanne Sheaffer, a senior from Naples, said the deaths had quickly revived the informal support networks that sprang up after the deaths in August. Within minutes of the news broadcasts Friday, Sheaffer's parents and friends called her. "Just being able to talk about it helps," she said.

Like many students, Sheaffer said these killings have spread new doubts about whether police have apprehended the killer responsible for the five deaths in August.

"I'm just really skeptical," she said.

Police have in custody Danny Harold Rolling and Edward Humphrey, the two named suspects in last summer's killings.

John Joyce, spokesman for the task force that investigated those cases, said nothing about Friday's killings suggests they are related.

The three crime scenes in August were consistent and shared many elements, Joyce said. The latest murders, he said, do not fit that pattern.

When the students were killed in August, Ana Compaim, 22, a senior from Lakeland, went home. But the term was just starting then. This time, there are only two weeks left before exams and students feel a greater need to stay.

"If I hear that there are more (victims) _ you bet I'm going home," she said.

And in the streets outside the student apartments, an extra 25 state police officers will bolster local police patrols _ a precaution also taken in the immediate months after the August killings.

Friday's deaths mark the third time in two years that UF students living off campus have been victimized.

In 1989, Tiffany Sessions disappeared while jogging and was never found despite an intensive search led by her father, Patrick Sessions. Miss Session's apartment was located in a different section of the Casablanca complex where the latest murders occurred.

Patrick Sessions traveled to Gainesville on Friday, saying he wanted to be close to the investigation. "Just to kind of say, "Hey, don't forget about Tiffany,' " he said. "Not that I think they are, but she's just as gone as these people."

On Friday, UF president John Lombardi acknowledged that permanent steps may be needed to improve the safety of students living off campus.

Security among off-campus students is usually left to local law enforcement agencies, but Lombardi said it might be necessary to extend special campus security services to the predominantly student neighborhoods.

"We may need to enhance the support we give these students," Lombardi said.

On Friday, Ms. Compaim walked alone on a largely deserted campus and thought about recreating the precautions she took in August.

Then, she spent one frightening night in a queen-size bed with two girlfriends, three cans of Mace, a baseball bat, a hammer and a gun.


Fear in Gainesville


Feb. 8: University of Florida junior Tiffany Sessions disappears while jogging in southwest Gainesville.


Aug. 26: The mutilated bodies of University of Florida students Christina Powell and Sonja Larson are discovered at Williamsburg Apartments.

Aug. 27: The mutilated, decapitated body of Santa Fe Community College student Christa Hoyt is discovered after she fails to show up for work.

Aug. 28: The bodies of Manuel Taboada and UF student Tracy Paules are found at Gatorwood Apartments. They had been stabbed. Many UF and Santa Fe Community College students begin leaving Gainesville.

Aug. 30: Edward Lewis Humphrey is arrested after his grandmother is beaten in Indialantic, Brevard County. Investigators begin questioning Humphrey.

Aug. 31: Police call Humphrey an "extremely valuable" suspect, but say he is one of several.

Sept. 9: Danny Harold Rolling, a 36-year-old unemployed laborer from Shreveport, La., is arrested in Ocala on charges he robbed a Winn-Dixie supermarket at gunpoint. He also is wanted in the May shooting of his father.

Sept. 17: Rolling pleads guilty to the Winn-Dixie armed robbery.

Nov. 15: Humphrey is sentenced to 22 months in the state mental hospital at Chattahoochee for beating his grandmother.

Dec. 13: The FBI says that leads in the disappearance of Sessions have nearly dried up and that investigators may be pulled off the case.


Mid-January: Rolling becomes a suspect in two Gainesville bank robberies.

Jan. 25: A prosecutor labels Rolling a "prime suspect" in the slayings of the five students. He says there may be similarities between a triple slaying in the Shreveport, La., area and the August killings in Gainesville.

Feb. 7: Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives issue warrants charging Rolling with armed robbery of a Tampa grocery store Sept. 2.

June 7: The bodies of Eleanor Anne Grace, 20, and Carla Marie McKishnie, 22, are discovered in their apartment in the same complex in which Tiffany Sessions was living when she disappeared. Police discount any connection with the murders from the previous summer.

Source: Times files