Who are Florida's most notorious serial killers?

Notorious murderers committed crimes in Florida

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

Danny Rolling, Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos

ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida has been plagued by many notorious serial murders. While not all of the killers originated in the Sunshine State they did, unfortunately, kill victims here along their deadly paths.

This week, law enforcement officials in Volusia and Palm Beach counties announced the arrest of a suspect accused of killing at least three women.

For years, Daytona Beach detectives suspected those slayings of women in their 30s from 2005 to 2008 were likely executed by the same individual. Palm Beach Sheriff's Office detectives arrested Robert Hayes, 37, this week on first-degree murder charges in the 2016 slaying of Rachel Bey. Read more about that case here.

The FBI defines serial murders as "the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events." By that definition, more than 845 people have been killed by suspected or known serial killers, according to a 2018 study by Radford University and the Florida Gulf Coast University.

According to Radford and FGCU research, Florida is third in the U.S. with the most people murdered by serial killers. California was No.1 and Texas came in second.

Here's a look at the most notorious serial killers with ties to Florida.

Nation's deadliest killer

Associated Press

Samuel Little listens as he is sentenced to three consecutive terms of life in prison without parole for murdering three women in the late 1980s, in a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

One confessed serial killer with possible victim's in Florida may be the nation's deadliest.

Samuel Little, now 79, was sentenced in 2014 to three consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole for killing three women in California. Little has since told FBI and Texas investigators he killed more than 90 people across the U.S., including 20-year-old Rosie Hill's 1982 slaying in Marion County.

When Little was arrested in 1982 on suspicion of killing two women in Mississippi, Marion County detectives interviewed Little about Hill's slaying; however, he said he didn't know the victim. At the time, detectives didn't have enough evidence to charge Little and he was never charged in the Mississippi case. 

FBI agents are attempting to connect Little's confessions with drawings he makes of his victims to cold cases around the country.

The FBI created a map of all the slayings Little said he committed since the 1970s. Anyone with information on these possible cases is asked to contact the ViCAP at 800-634-4097.

Aileen Wuornos

Associated Press

AP photos: Aileen Wuornos

Even though women make up less than 6% of serial killers nationwide, Central Florida was victim to one of the most notorious: Aileen Wuornos.

Wuornos was implicated in the deaths of several truck drivers along Interstate 4, but convicted and sentenced to death in Volusia County for the murder of a businessman. Her story was later made into a movie called “Monster,” in which Wuornos was played by Charlize Theron.

Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in 2002.

Ted Bundy 

Associated Press

In this June 27, 1979 file photo, accused murderer Ted Bundy stares out at the photographer during the second day of jury selection in his murder trial in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/File)

An arrest didn't stop Ted Bundy's killing spree. He'd already been convicted of kidnapping and assaulting a Utah teenager and authorities were working to tie him to other murders when he escaped the first time during a court hearing in Aspen, Colorado in June 1977.

He was taken into custody nearby but during his second escape on New Year's Eve 1977, he made his way down to Florida. 

The FBI says that while a manhunt was underway, Bundy killed two sorority girls and injured two others at Florida State University on Jan. 14, 1978. A fifth student who lived a few blocks away from the university was also attacked and survived.

Bundy's last victim was a 12-year-old Florida girl named Kimberly Leach. The murder happened in Lake City, about 90 miles away from Tallahassee, on Feb. 9, 1978, about three weeks after the FSU attacks. It took another two months after Leach went missing before her body was found behind Suwannee River State Park.

By then, Bundy was back in custody.

Bundy went to trial for the FSU deaths in Miami in 1979 and stood trial for Leach's death in Orlando in 1980. Both juries sentenced him to death.

He was executed by electric chair at Florida State Prison on Jan. 24, 1989, at age 42.

Danny Rolling, Gainesville ripper

Associated Press

Danny Rolling greets his public defender Trish Jenkins as his mental competency hearing continues at the Marion County Courthouse in Ocala, Fla., May 31, 1991. Rolling is one of the suspects in the murder of five college students in…

Like Bundy, Danny Rolling also targeted Florida college students. 

Rolling's killing spree began on Aug. 24, 1990, shortly after the start of the University of Florida's fall semester. 

Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17, were the first two victims. Rollings followed them to their off-campus apartment and stabbed them both to death. Their bodies were found mutilated.

Two days later, on Aug. 26, 1990, Christa Hoyt was found raped, stabbed and decapitated. She was a Santa Fe College student who lived in an off-campus apartment.

It was only one day after that when Rolling killed two more UF students: roommates Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada.

Rolling was arrested in Ocala on Sept. 7, 1990, on an unrelated burglary charge and as authorities were investigating, they were able to identify him as the Gainesville Ripper, a moniker developed based on the way the victims were bound, mutilated and posed.

While in custody, he also provided information that implicated him of killing Julie Grissom, 24, her nephew Sean Grissom, 8, and her father, Tom Grissom, 55, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

He was executed at Florida State Prison on Oct. 25, 2006.

Gary Ray Bowles, the I-95 killer

Gary Ray Bowles

Bowles was recently executed in Florida for killing Walter Hinton in Jacksonville Beach in 1994. However, investigators say Bowles had more victims as he preyed on older gay men during a rampage 25 years ago.

Hinton was one of the six known killings that terrorized the I-95 corridor in 1994 and earned Bowles the nickname of the "I-95 killer."

Hinton was Bowles' sixth victim in the killing spree that began in Daytona Beach with the slaying of John Hardy Roberts. In between, there were victims in Maryland, Georgia and Florida. In each case, Bowles stuffed the victims' throats.

‘The killer babysitter’

Christine Falling

Christine Falling, of Blountstown became one of the youngest convicted serial killers at age 19. Falling was known as “the killer babysitter” after she was convicted of killing three children she was babysitting. Two others also died while she was watching them, according to the Capitol News Service.

Falling remains in prison. Her application for parole was denied in 2017.

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