Daniel Harold Rolling was born in Shreveport, LA on May 26, 1954 to James and Claudia Rolling. Danny's childhood was filled with turmoil and abuse. From the very beginning, Danny was deprived of love and attention from his mother and was treated with hatred and contempt by his father. Verbal and physical abuse coupled with consistent exposure to domestic violence helped to lay the groundwork in creating the monster that was Danny Rolling.
Above, left are photos of Danny throughout his school years. On the right is a family photo that Danny included in his book The Making of a Serial Killer. It is hard to imagine that the sullen young man would go on to commit such heinous crimes.
For more about Danny Rolling's childhood, listen to episode 1 of Danny Rolling - The Killer Cowboy Crooner.
The murders committed by Danny Rolling were gruesome and have forever scarred the community of Gainesville, FL. In Gainesville, there is a retaining wall covered in graffiti (see below) spanning a quarter of a mile along SW 34th Street. Built in 1979, the wall is covered in well wishes and messages of tribute but, most notable is the memorial dedicated to the victims of Danny Rolling: Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules, and Manuel Taboda.
While in Gainesville, Danny Rolling camped out in the woods close to the murder scenes. Below is a map of the area with relevant sites marked; all within a 2.5 mile radius.
Danny fancied himself an artist and musician. Below are a bunch of his drawings from his time in prison, dark stuff. I have also included a number of the songs he recorded into a cassette tape recorder from his campsites in Gainesville.
Anthony Sowell (the Cleveland Strangler) was born on August 19, 1959 to Claudia Garrison a young, single mother in East Cleveland, OH. Anthony Sowell’s childhood has been described as murky and confusing; like living through a war. He was the third of Claudia’s children and lived with his mother, siblings, and maternal grandmother Irene Justice in East Cleveland. Sowell was a latch-key kid by age 5, wearing a house key around his neck. Outwardly, Sowell appeared to be a polite and kind child, albeit quiet and shy.
Sowell's mother, Claudia, was very abusive. There were no birthday parties, no play dates with friends, no candy or junk food. Claudia had a stash of junk food in her room and would beat the children if they stole from her. The children were expected to do many hours worth of chores and meet Claudia’s rigid standards or they would be punished. Claudia would beat the kids with everything from belts to coat hangers; Irene would beat them with her cane. When the children were to be punished for a real or perceived infraction, they were stripped naked, tied to the banister, and beat them with extension cords or anything that was a whiplike weapon. The abuse was sadistic and ritualistic. When one child was beaten, the others would gather to watch. The twins, Leona and Ramona seemed to be the main targets of the bloody beatings although none of the children were off limits. The youngest of Patricia’s children, Jesse Darnell Hatcher (5 years younger than his twin sisters) also became a target of the abuse. He would be instructed to go into the living room and remove his underwear. He was then bent over a chair and beaten across the legs and buttocks until he bled. Jesse was so severely scarred that he did not like to wear shorts. Sowell once described being asleep one night when his mother came in and started beating him with a cord (years later, Claudia corroborated this story). In another incident Sowell describes a time when Claudia hit him in the head with a hammer. He also accused his mother of making him play with dolls and calling him dumb and useless. Tressa tells a story about a time that Anthony had not completed his chores around the house and had gone off to boxing practice. When he returned home he was playing catch in the yard and ran up to his mother’s car window when she got home and she punched him in the face. He cried, of course, and exclaimed that she had broken his nose. His mother’s reply “I don’t give a fuck”.
There were a total of 11 children living in Sowell's mother's house; 4 were Sowell's siblings and 7 were his late sister's children. As the girls began to enter puberty, the boys became more and more interested in watching the sadistic beatings. Sowell became focused on his niece Leona & he would “frame” her by stealing from his mother’s junk food drawer so that he could watch her get beaten, naked. The beatings blurred the line between sexual desire and violence for Anthony. By 1972, Sowell (age 12) began to sexually assault and beat Leona on a daily basis. Anthony Sowell left high school in 1976 and joined the military. He spent 7 years in the Marines but, he began to exhibit troubling behaviors that included excessive alcohol use, sadistic treatment of women while stationed in Japan, and he even went AWOL for several months.
For more details about the biological and psychological aspects that helped to create the Cleveland Strangler listen to SkB.
After being honorably discharged from the Marines in 1985, Sowell returned to East Cleveland, OH. Over the next few years, Sowell was arrested for possession, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct. He had reportedly begun to smoke crack around this time. In 1989, Sowell was arrested and then convicted for the rape of Melvette Sockwell, sentenced to 5-15 years. He did the maximum time because he refused to participate in sex offender rehabilitation.
In 2005, Sowell was released from prison and did well for awhile but, eventually he began smoking crack again and his violent behavior escalated. From May of 2007 - September of 2009, Anthony Sowell raped at least two women and he tortured, raped, and murdered another 11 women. Sowell buried some of the women in his backyard, he threw 2 of the dead women down into his basement, and he left the bodies (and body parts) of several women scattered throughout the rest of his 4 story house.
To learn more about the effects that his time in prison may have had on his mental health, the impact of excessive alcohol abuse and drug use on his escalating violence and to hear more about the lives of Sowell's "invisible" victims, listen to SkB episodes on the Cleveland Strangler.
You often hear discussions of brain trauma when listening to true crime podcasts or watching true crime shows but, did you understand what was being discussed? If you are interested in learning more about the human brain and the importance of each part of this beautifully complex organ, this blog is for you!
The human brain – it can do magic. The brain is the control center of the nervous system - accepting and transmitting chemical and electrical signals. These signals allow us to see, hear, speak, move, love, understand, and ultimately – live. The brain’s complexity is utterly astounding. I remember reading somewhere that the human brain has more molecular switches than all of the computers, routers, and Internet connections on the planet. Wow, right?
So what does the brain do, exactly? That is a loaded question, do a little research on the Internet and it will seem like we know TONS. In reality, we don’t know what we don’t know. I will tell you that the “10% brain use” myth is precisely that: a myth. So back to the question “…what does the brain do, exactly?” Well, the answer depends upon the area of the brain being discussed. The thing that makes us different from other animals is our cerebrum – where higher thinking happens. The brain (part of the CNS) is the control center of the nervous system accepting and transmitting chemical and electrical signals. These signals allow us to see, hear, create language, move, love, understand, and ultimately – live. The brain is an incredibly complex organ that scientists are still working to decipher.
The nervous system is divided into two parts; the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The Central Nervous System includes the brain and the spinal cord. The Peripheral Nervous System includes the somatic (body) and autonomic divisions.
It is hard to believe that the sweet little face of a very young Jeffrey Dahmer would someday be the face of the Milwaukee Cannibal. His parents, Lionel and Joyce, seemed to be the typical American family of the 1960s; dad worked and mom stayed home to take care of the house and children. Lionel was a highly intelligent, driven, workaholic. As a child, Lionel had been obsessed with fire but he was able to harness his obsession into a love of chemistry. Joyce was the daughter of a violent alcoholic who seemingly suffered from a number of mental health issues including substance abuse. The couple married in 1959 and soon realized how little they had in common.
Jeffrey grew up in a volatile household under the care of a mother who was unable to emotionally bond with her son. As a young boy, Jeffrey underwent a double hernia surgery which, reportedly, changed the once exuberant boy into a shy and introverted one. Jeffrey likely had Asperger's Syndrome (one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders), a disorder that typically will manifest sometime between 2 and 4 years old.
Dahmer developed an obsession with the entrails of dead animals, an obsession that would become fused with his sexuality as he entered puberty. He had trouble fitting in with peers and eventually realized that he was homosexual (not an accepted "life-style" in the 1970s).
Above are photos of Jeffrey's high school graduation, a few photos with his father and brother, his army basic training portrait, and a photo of Jeffrey and Lionel after Jeffrey had been incarcerated.
Dahmer was arrested a couple of times prior to 1991. Once was for indecent exposure and another was for molesting a young Laotian boy. He went on to kill at least 17 boys and young men between the years of 1978-1991. Listen to my three part series to hear more about the Milwaukee Cannibal.
You will notice that there are 2 victims included in the above flyer that have not been 100% linked to Dahmer.
Edmund Emil Kemper, III (the Coed Killer) claimed a total of 10 victims between 1963 - 1974; 3 family members, 1 family friend, and 6 coeds. Ed was born on December 18, 1948 in Burbank, CA. to parents Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr. (EE) and Clarnell Strandberg Kemper. Ed's father was a WWII vet and an incredibly passive man and his mother was overbearing and domineering.. Ed's childhood was fraught with confusion, anger, violence, and abuse. Ed’s parents had a very toxic and tumultuous marriage; Clarnell would regularly ridicule and belittle EE in front of the children, effectively emasculating him with her cruelty. There was a great deal of physical and verbal abuse in the Kemper house. The effect of this constant turmoil between his parents had lasting consequences; the least of which was a distorted view of male/female relationships. Childhood exposure to violence between parents coupled with a lack of sexual education (sex was a taboo topic in the Kemper house) can obscure the line between sex and violence. Kemper may have inadvertently seen his parents engaged in sex. The blurring of violence and sex in children can be devastating. In fact, Dr. Davidson Abrahamsen (who was a leading authority on violence in American) postulated that children interpret sex between parents as a violent act in which his father is hurting his mother. “To the child’s mind sex, the primal scene, is a bloody crime which, because it is a secret, he is forbidden to watch”. So, when a child sees his parents having sex, the child often interprets this as violence, especially when there is no sex education in the home. Margaret Cheney, in her book “The Coed Killer: A Study of the Murders, Mutilations, and Matricide of Edmund Kemper, III” speculates that Ed may have been exposed to some sort of heterosexual over-stimulation. Psychologists would later remark that Ed had an insatiable interest in sex. The effect on young Ed was profound and he began to have morbid, sexual fantasies at a very early age. The couple separated when Ed was just 6 years old but, his father had been absent because of his job for a couple of years prior.
Clarnell Kemper managed to make her son both hate her and love her. Posthumously diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she knew how to manipulate her son and what's worse is that she knew how to press his buttons. She called him a weirdo and made fun of his size. MOTHER OF THE YEAR!
As a teenager, Ed was sent to live with his paternal grandparents (Edmund Emil Kemper & Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper) and subsequently murdered them when he was 15 years old. For his crime, Ed spent 5 years at California's Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. Here he lived among adult male, mentally disordered, sex offenders. Obviously an excellent environment for a teenager diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, right? An especially great place for a teenager with morbid sexual urges. When he was released from Atascadero, the one piece of advice his doctors gave him was to never speak to his mother again. Instead, he was paroled to her. From 1969 - 1972, Ed attempted to live a normal life but, eventually, he allowed his dark fantasies to take over.
In 1972, Ed Kemper began his murderous reign. Over the course of 10 months, he murdered 6 young coeds. When this did not satiety his need to murder, he realized it was his mother he really wanted to kill. On April 20 & 21, 1973, Ed murdered his mother in a very gruesome manner. He then invited her best friend over and murdered her as well.
Once in custody, Ed could not stop talking; to the police, to reporters, to counselors, to anyone who would listen. He blamed his relationship with his mother and his inability to communicate effectively with the opposite sex for his horrific crimes.
If you are interested in learning more about Ed Kemper's psychology and the biological factors that may have contributed to his murderous drive and abhorrent paraphilias, listen to my 3-part podcast series.