Scores of police took up the hunt in this terrified college town today for the “maniac on the loose” who killed five students, mutilating three. Students armed themselves or fled to their parents.
“We slept with steak knives last night,” said a tearful Stacie Green, a 19-year-old junior from Jacksonville. “I had to call my mom. This is unreal.”
The victims--four women and a man attending either the University of Florida or nearby Santa Fe Community College--were stabbed in three attacks at off-campus apartments since Sunday. Police said three victims were mutilated. A newspaper said one was decapitated.
The killer broke into the apartments, which are within about two miles of each other, through unlocked doors or windows or by forcing a sliding-glass door, Police Chief Wayland Clifton said today.
“At first that was not real clear in our cases because we thought he might be gaining entry by disguising himself in some way and winning the confidence of the occupants,” he said. “We do not now think that that happened in any of the three cases.”
Police checked out several reports of suspicious people around the city overnight but made no arrests, Alachua County Sheriff’s Lt. Sadie Darnell said this morning.
Gov. Bob Martinez ordered in dozens of state troopers and other law enforcement agents. Out-of-state experts on serial killers were called in. Local police tripled their patrols.
The buildup was scant comfort for the thousands of students living off campus in the town of 90,000, where the slayings have stirred memories of serial killer Ted Bundy.
Hundreds of students bolted their doors, fled to emergency shelters, went home to their parents or angrily demanded details on the slayings and how to protect themselves. Many armed themselves with pistols, stun guns and Mace.
“My father bought me a gun,” said a junior from Tallahassee who refused to give her name. “I’ll stay for awhile, but I’m thinking of dropping out for a semester.”
Said one Miami father who flew into Gainesville to pick up his daughter: “She’s going to go back with Mace and knowing how to shoot a gun.”
Student Mark Andreozzi said he and a roommate armed themselves when a carpet cleaner turned up unexpectedly Tuesday. “I had an ax and he had a bat. We’re going to get guns after this,” Andreozzi said.
University of Florida President John Lombardi said the school decided against canceling class because students who couldn’t go home would be left without “the safety and support of the university.”