5 Bodies, 2 Suspects: How Police Finally Found the Gainesville Ripper

Read part one of E! and Oxygen’s two-part series here

Over the course of four days in August 1990, five college students were murdered in Gainesville, Fla.

Christina Powell and roommate Sonya Larson were incoming freshmen who never made it to their first week of classes at the University of Florida. Christa Hoyt attended Santa Fe Community College and worked nights as a records clerk for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, hoping to go into law enforcement herself one day. Manuel Taboada was transferring from SFCC to UF, wanting to study architecture. And Tracy Paules, his friend since high school, was a pre-law senior at UF.

The crime scenes were gruesome, the victims all stabbed to death in their own apartments, the women mutilated and three of them sexually assaulted. 

Despite assurances from authorities and university officials that they were taking every precaution to keep them safe, many students took off for the comforts, company and dead-bolted doors of home, living with their parents an appealing prospect once again. Hundreds didn’t return to campus until the spring semester, when the terror had slightly abated.


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