I have no doubt I have PTSD with some of the events in my life that have shook me up while trying to maintain a sense of calm.
It was the summer of 1990 and I had left the Cheifland Police dept to get a less stressful job. ( I thought). My ex husband and me found work at Sunrise Apts ..off 23rd Terrace, Gainesville, Florida. I had had enough of police dispatching and knew about apartment leasing and property management. I landed a great job at First Gainesville Corporation and worked directly under the property manager for 7 complexes , who also was the President of the Apartment Association of Gainesville, Florida. My present husband would also come to work with me there when things went south for me and my ex. The marriage was already on the rocks with my ex and me BEFORE the added stress of The Gainesville Murders.
I was a new employee and August, May and December are big months in Gator country.
The residents are mostly students of UF and my new less stressful job was about to become a whole lot more intense and stressful. I had been on the job since June and in August, one worked around the clock 7 days a week leasing apartments and taking deposits as the new semester was starting. The hours and work alone is stressful but what started happening took on a whole new meaning to stress and chaos.
Our complex was the last one our boss visited to pick up paperwork and it was there he could pull out a pipe and smoke it as the day was at end. He was a super powerful boss and nice as could be and a former professor in Political Science. He was like a walking computer and usually in a hurry. This particuliar visit was not hurried. I handed him the reports and orders for maintenance when he sat down and lit his pipe.
Bill, my boss said, " I don't know how you did all that dispatching because I am just sick about what happened not three miles from here, over at Williamsburg Apts."
He described what he had just had been informed of as the President of the Apt. Association. Never mind that it was not one of our properties, he was the president of the Association and had to have updates of this horrific event.
After he described a brutal murder of two students..I had a sense of urgency cross my mind. In his presence I picked up the phone and called the Gainesville Police. I said to the dispatch that I wanted beefed up security this night for our complex. I was assured they would add extra patrol. My boss quickly responded as I hung up the phone.
He said, " Why are you requesting a patrol car in here"? I replied, " Because this has all the earmarks of a serial killing". My boss was sort of put off and almost seemed like I may be over reacting. I didn't care. I just felt it was not going to stop.
This is the description of what happend with the first from Wikepedia.
The first attack occurred early August 24, 1990, when Rolling broke into the apartment shared by Sonja Larson and Christina Powell. Finding Powell asleep on the downstairs couch, he stood over her briefly, but did not wake her up, choosing instead to explore the upstairs bedroom where Larson was sleeping. Deciding that he would rape Larson, he went back downstairs to murder Powell, first taping her mouth shut to stifle her screams as he stabbed her to death. She died while trying to fend him off. Rolling then went upstairs, taped Larson's mouth shut and her wrists together behind her back, and threatened her with a knife as he cut her clothes off of her. He then raped her and forced her face-down onto the floor where he stabbed her five times in the back. Rolling posed the bodies and left the apartment.The reason I felt so strongly about this being a serial killer was the fact he posed the bodies. A killing for revenge or regular burglary would not have posed the bodies. For those who do not know what posing is....HE actually put sunglasses and a hat on a head with no body and placed it on a table as she was discovered. Big RED WARNING sign went off in my head. I still believe that I may have had the insight of beefed up patrol to ward off a killing in my complex.. I thank God for that call I made...because as our complex was having cars patrol through the site, while yet another property, another murder was happening. I wonder to this day if my former work with law enforcemnt in Texas and Florida gave me the insight. I think it did.
I recall that the terror was sweeping full throttle in the little University town. My boss was being a regular on Channel 20 news and new security measures were being put into place. Students were breaking leases and moving out in droves. I was talking to panic stricken parents who were withdrawing students and telling kids to come home.
My perfect no vacancies was becoming a ghost town literally.
I did not blame the parents for wanting kids out of the area but I also knew that panic had hit a town and people eventually might have regrets of moving or dropping out of school, not to mention some may never return to their school or futher their education.
I was torn on trying to maintain some sense of perspective and yet terror in my heart knowing we had plenty of brunettes that would be perfect targets right here on my site.
I too was a brunette and nervous. I had just turned 40 and not as young as most of the students but I did not think age or gender made a difference and that turned out to be true.
The info of the terror
I recall walking with kids to their apartments.. I remember all locks being changed and thumblocks installed on windows. I remember having a maintenace crew working day and night installing deadboltsand peepholes. I remember not knowing who to trust. Was it the Pizza Man? The carpet cleaner? The pest control? Were we housing a killer? Every time the door opened and a hysterical parent was either crying or screaming at me...Not really at me but in a panic that appeared to be directed to me when I tried to reason with them to take some time before breaking the lease and moving..To take time off and come back. I remember scolding students who were taking chances by walking alone and not locking doors and would leave their doors cracked and windows wide open with their mini blinds not drawn and Maintenace and myself walked the property. Some kids would be upset for a day or so and then until the next murder just be soooooo careless with their safety.
I sat down with pen in hand and made a list of things I wanted to do to keep our occupants and hopefully help with safety.
1. I would read that lease and look for a provision that allowed me to impose strict rules.
There was a safety clause in the lease that said management could impose rules or make appropriate adjustments to insure a quality of safety. No one can guarantee one's safety when a madman or madmen were loose. I would try as best I could to level that field with all the changes of safety our boss was imposing as well.
I decided to close the laudromat and pool at dark. I notified the students that the laundramat would no longer be available 24 hours..temporarily.
I pushed the closing hours of the pool to 8 PM..Before Dark.
I requested that student use the buddy system for exercise or store walks.
I insisted that warnings would be issued regarding safety violations if blinds were not properly closed.( I reminded them that this was part of their lease agreement).
I asked that students please pick up their mail in their boxes before dark if possible and
to have a friend go with them.
I requested that they be aware of their surroundings at all times and to please think
I put flyers on the doors three days before pest control and that pest control would be escorted by two maintenace personnel with doors left open and relocked after service.
I explained no open firearms while outside their apatment would be tolerated on this property.
I urged them if they saw anything suspicious to notify the police and gave every single resident a hotline number. I then advised them to notify my office.
I encouraged students to leave their porch lights on at night.
I had maintenance personnel cutting limbs and brush away. The hedges were cut much below window level.
I added extra lighting on the grounds.
I also had a maintenance man named Dave who escorted students to their door along with his wife. We all escorted students to their doors when asked and waited for them to get inside and lock up.
I realized to a point we were on a lock down situation but the killings were continuing all around us.. Blocks away. Would you believe the hysteria was so bad that we were still escorting residents to their doors some months after the killer was captured?
The residents got used to seeing Dave and me as my ex was helping out on two other sites installing peep hole and deadbolts....Those properties had more than 130 units. We had 130 and it was easier than the 200 plus we were all one level one apartment.
I had a meeting with maintenace and asked them to please wear a blue shirt and khakis to work as I was wearing a blue dress with white dots when we started walking the property at night. This was a familiar pattern I wanted the residents to see, No matter what I wore to work in the day..Come night I would change into that blue dress with polks dots. This gave visibility that management was on the grounds and observing.
I handed in a report to my boss of my rules that I had implimented and he looked them over and decided to insist the other managers start providing some of these same techniques. He could not request that of all the apartments in Gainesville but his 7 properties could adopt them. (He afterall was trying to keep his occupants).
I will never forget waking up tired and going to bed tired. I nearly was shot twice as was the postman and head maintenace guy, Dave. These were kids for the most part and they were terrified. This was the reason for our clothes.. They KNEW what we would be wearing in this time of crisis. I remember the day my boss called me and told me that my complex had been chosen to conduct the Law enforcement safety drills.
Alachua county, Gainesville PD and other LE would conduct safety awareness at our complex. I still have the award letter somewhere.
After the first murder of beefing up patrol, two deputies were parked after 10 in our complex. My boss had that done for all 7 of his sites.
I think back now if that Stand your Ground had been in effect , so much worse could have happened. As it was, we as Management could have been killed simply for knocking on a door of a panic stricken resident. I felt so sorry for our postman who had to deliver registered letters. He was in constant danger.
I found this article written in 96 who felt the terror as well !
Gainesville began to boil, figuratively. I would try and call my mother at work to pass on a message, and would get a recording saying "All circuits are busy right now". The phone company, Southern Bell (now known as BellSouth) made a major media announcement, begging people to not place any calls to Gainesville unless it was absolutely vital, due to the strain on the systems. Spots started appearing on CNN and other national news shows about the murders.Humpries was the first suspect and they got it all wrong. I often wondered what happened to Humprhies after that grilling. The worst part of that season in Hell was the murder at Gatorwood.. next door to us. The panic picked up and the police and FBI were everywhere along with paparazzi and Phil Donahue. We were instructed not to go on that show as it was exploiting the murders and to tell you the truth I didn't have time to answer questions from the press. No comment got to be a familiar phrase for me back then. I actually started longing for the stress of working at the PD. I often thought ..Man, I never left...I went from dispatcher to Investigations and Safety Patrol.
It's hard to describe how I felt. I didn't know any of the victims personally, or even by reputation. I wasn't a UF student (though one of the murdered was actually a Santa Fe Community College student, which I now attend). But turning on the news and seeing Peter Jennings mention the tragedy had a chilling effect. It added a distant, unreal aspect to something that was already extreme.
During that first week, the amount of rumors and gossip floating around Gainesville was so thick you could fold it up and sell it as manure. There were claims that the murderer was an escaped convict, an escaped mental patient, that more bodies had been found (many people were confused by initial news reports on exactly how many murders had been discovered), and so on. A good friend of mine told me that a nursing student friend of hers claimed the bodies had been brought to the hospital she worked at, and one of the female victims had been pregnant and that the fetus had been ripped out of her body. This of course later proved to be totally false. None of the female victims had been pregnant
( But the pay is better). I felt like I was a Mother to these kids, and yet had to remain a professional property manager. It was a tight rope and several incidents occured when one girl I remember on the pay phone started screaming that some guy was watching her. She was actually freaking out and the police had to be called every single time there was a tip or this kind of happening. I never remember not being on edge that summer of Hell. It was only 12 weeks later my ex husband decided to abandon me with my complex when things were starting to get back to normal but my boss told me later that he didn't know how I held it together with not only the murders but a husband who was walking away...
I had no more patience for him, I was alive and my tenants were alive and we had survived a SEASON IN HELL. My performance as property manager shaped me in many ways..I knew I had a job to do and I knew lives depending on how aware I was. I knew fear could paralyze or kill you so I had to be strong but the good part I was not let go and replaced with another couple because when being hired, it was a couple's position. My boss did not let me go when the ex left..I got to maintain that property alone as I had proven I could handle it alone as long as I had extra maintenace help. I met Jack not long aftwerwards and we became a couple residency again but for many months there,, it was on me. I looked down at the date as I wrote this and realized, it is an anniversary date of those murders. August is never a great month for me... Between Jack's anniversary date of some bad things in Nam and this situation, it is a tense time. I always reflect on those lives lost not only in Atlanta with the Child murders but in Gainesville as well. It hits me pretty hard because I was there for both.
Names and details listed below :
I found this song appropriate ..Season in Hell from Eddie and The Cruisers