I am obsessed with true crime and have been the majority of my life. I spent a lot of time alone as a child and way too much time watching the news. It makes sense that I would go on to be a journalist, because I watched so much nightly news. While other girls had crushes on members of boy bands, I fawned over Peter Jennings — not in a sexual way, just the way a nine-year-old girl would feel about her favorite news anchor. Wait, did anyone else have a crush on a new anchor at that age? No, just me? Okay then.
In August 1990, at the age of nine, I moved from Tennessee to Florida — Gainesville, Florida to be exact. Home of the University of Florida. At this time, the topic dominating the news was the serial killing of five college students. The news reports told of the victims and how their mutilated bodies were found posed at the crime scene. I was horrified and captivated by all the news reports. I watched local news and national news whenever I could, which was a lot because I was an introverted kid in the 80s and 90s and our parents weren’t nearly as involved as parents today.
These murders are where my obsession with true crime began. I would sit in front of the television watching intently, taking notes in my reporter’s notebook (pink diary with a lock). I would write down all the details, not only trying to figure out who did it, but also why. I didn’t stop to consider that I was a nine-year-old and had just moved to Gainesville and knew all of five people, but I was committed to solving this case. Frustratingly, the police and I had no leads on any suspects. There were a few persons of interest, but no real leads. The case ran cold, but my obsession only burned brighter — fueled by Friday nights spent at my grandmother’s house watching 20/20.
Still a big introvert, I spent unsupervised time at the library, reading books about true crime. I had no one to talk to about my new interest, because, as it turns out, other little girls don’t want to chat about grisly murders. So weird! I learned to keep my interest to myself and not talk about it for many, many years when the podcast My Favorite Murder changed all of that. Suddenly there were people not only talking about true crime but doing it comedically. I was hooked. For years, I had felt like an outcast for having a favorite murder — The Black Dahlia — and now I had a podcast and Facebook groups and communities built around being a Murderino. SSDGM — Stay Sexy Don’t Get Murdered — became the secret phrase among fans of the podcast. I have this printed on buttons, bags, stickers, notebooks, and a key chain.
After finding My Favorite Murder, I discovered the magic that is Keith Morrison and Dateline. I love all the journalists on Dateline, but Keith Morrison is my favorite. Keith, if you are reading this, I have a message. “I love you. No, really, I mean it. You are literally one of my favorite human beings in this whole amazing and murderous world. Can we be best friends?”
It is my newest favorite podcast that inspired me to write this today — Today in True Crime. It is a short “this day in history” type of show that talks about what happened on this date in true crime. Today, February 15, 2022, the show was about Danny Rolling, “The Gainesville Ripper,” the serial killer who had sparked my interested in true crime 31 years ago. On February 15, 1991, Danny Rolling pled guilty five counts of murder and three counts of sexual battery and armed burglary. He said, “I’ve been running from first one thing and then another all my life, whether from problems at home, or with the law, or from myself. But there are some things that you just can’t run from, and this being one of those.” Rolling was sentenced to death, and he was executed October 25, 2006.