Authorities this morning arrested a suspect in the slayings of two University of Florida students that renewed fear in a community still edgy over a series of student killings last summer. Authorities said they had arrested Alan Robert Davis, 29, of Newberry, a small town about 10 miles west of Gainesville, in the latest killings.
A news conference was held early this morning to announce the details.
Authorities previously had said the latest slayings were unrelated to the five last August. Two men police called suspects in the earlier killings are in custody.
Davis, a carpet cleaner, was picked up while cleaning rugs at another apartment Saturday and was later questioned at the Alachua County Sheriff's Department, officials said.
Deputies brought the Davis, who was wearing shorts and a white uniform with his carpet cleaning company's name on it, out to a waiting squad car about 1:40 a.m. today to be taken to the county jail. More than 100 reporters and photographers were on hand to catch a glimpse of the man, who has long brownish-blond hair and a mustache.
The carpet cleaner allegedly entered the victims' apartment Thursday, the same day they were killed. Something went awry, and the women were killed, officials said.
According to an arrest affidavit, Davis first struggled with Eleanor Anne Grace. He told detectives he punched Grace and knocked her to the floor unconscious. He then fought with Carla Marie McKishnie and strangled her with his hands.
He then went back to Grace, who still appeared to be unconscious, and choked her.
His boss at Rainbow International Carpet Dyeing and Cleaning Co. in Gainesville called investigators and helped them develop the case against Davis, officials said.
Deputies were preparing a probable cause affidavit early today that would keep him in jail pending their investigation.
The arrest should ease any anxieties that a serial killer was again on the loose in the college town. Earlier Saturday, Sheriff Lu Hindery cast the strongest doubt on that theory.
Hindery said the cause of death suggested the murder was unplanned. "Strangulation would almost indicate that he didn't go there necessarily prepared to cause a death," Hindery said.
Nevertheless, the latest killings revived memories of five killings in neighborhoods near the campus last summer. Though police have named the two suspects in the earlier killings, no one has ever been charged.
"Everybody is kind of in shock," said Tom Hall, a senior. "They say it's not related to the other murders but to me that makes it worse. That means there's another killer out there."
The bodies of Grace, 20, and McKishnie, 22, were discovered Friday morning in the condominium they shared. Police said they were killed between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning.
Many students went home for the weekend after learning of the killings Friday. Others had slumber parties with friends, trusting in the safety of numbers.
"We've heard from parents all over. They are concerned. They are scared. some have taken their son or daughter back home, and I can understand that," Mann said.
"It's frightening. It's real frightening," Layne Northsea, a sophomore, said Saturday. "I was up until 6:30 this morning. I waited until it was light to feel safe."
"The condition of the victims' bodies were certainly a lot different than what we had in the serial homicides," Mann said. "Also, the crime scene itself, the apartment, certainly does not have the same aura that the other apartments had."
The Medical Examiner's Office determined the victims were strangled and there was no evidence of sexual assault. Mann said there was no evidence of robbery or burglary.
Authorities are still trying to solve five student killings last August when a serial killer or killers entered three apartments and stabbed and mutilated four women and a man.
The slayings of Sonya Larsen, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules and Manual Taboada set off one of the most intensive investigations in state history after their bodies were found Aug. 26-28.
Police have not filed charges in the earlier slayings, but they have named Danny Rolling, who is jailed on unrelated charges and implicated in a string of robberies and burglaries, as the leading suspect.
Police also say former UF student Edward Humphrey, locked up on a charge of beating his grandmother, remains on the suspect list, and may have helped Rolling.
Evidence against Rolling and Humphrey will be presented to a grand jury later this year, prosecutors said last week.