Unspeakable Crimes 'Scream' Was Based On A Real Life Serial Killer Who Terrorized A College Town  

Erin Wisti
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The movie Scream was a pop culture and box office sensation in the '90s, garnering critical acclaim and spawning multiple sequels. Not many realize there was a real serial killer who inspired the movie Scream, though. Danny Rolling terrorized the college town of Gainesville, Florida, in 1990. The Gainesville killer's crimes inspired the film's writer, Kevin Williamson, to pen the screenplay, and they line up with plot twists in the original Scream.  

Danny Rolling's crimes were horrific. Not only did he kill five people in the course of three days, but the murders were particularly brutal. As Rolling targeted multiple college students, fear and paranoia swept through the campus and town. Though police eventually apprehended the killer, the atmosphere in Gainesville during the search felt like a true horror story.

Rolling Killed Five People In Three Days


Rolling Killed Five People In ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 'Scream' Was Based On A Real Life Serial Killer Who Terrorized A College Town
Photo: Florida Department of Corrections/Wikimedia Commons

Part of the reason the Gainesville case seemed so horrific came down to how quickly the killing spree occurred. Within the span of three days, Rolling took five lives. It started on Friday, August 25, 1990, when Rolling murdered roommates Sonja Larson and Christine Powell. On Saturday, he killed Christa Hoyt. On Monday, he killed another pair of roommates, Tracy Paules and Manny Toboada. All five were killed inside their apartments with a knife.

The First Two Murders Were Shocking In Their Brutality


The First Two Murders Were Sho... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 'Scream' Was Based On A Real Life Serial Killer Who Terrorized A College Town
Photo:  Serial Killers Around The World /YouTube

Gainesville didn't possess a high crime rate at the time. So, when a vicious killer started killing students, people became extremely alarmed. While killing Sonja Larson and Christine Powell, Rolling entered from the downstairs entrance. He found Powell asleep on the couch and continued upstairs to Larson's bedroom. He taped her mouth shut, restrained her wrists, and violently stabbed her. After she was dead, he returned to Powell, raped her, and then stabbed her.

He spotted the women while they shopped at a Walmart near Gainesville. He was in the store buying the materials needed for his murderous spree: duct tape, two pairs of gloves, and a screwdriver. They were buying furniture for their new apartment. When they left, he followed them home, and watched them and their apartment until 3 am.

The Killer Mutilated Hoyt's Body And Beheaded Her


The Killer Mutilated Hoyt's Bo... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 'Scream' Was Based On A Real Life Serial Killer Who Terrorized A College Town
Photo:  Serial Killers Around The World /YouTube

Like all the other murders, Christa Hoyt’s death was gruesome. Hoyt was discovered dead in her apartment on August 25, her body extremely mutilated. She had been bound, raped, and stabbed to death in the back. Both her breasts were cut off, along with her head, which the killer placed on a bookshelf. Even worse, Hoyt worked for the local sheriff, and the officers who found her body knew her personally.

According to police, before Rolling killed Hoyt, he ransacked her apartment for valuables. Hoyt, who was not home at the time, returned to her apartment around 11 am. Rolling waited inside, grabbing her from behind when she entered and locking her in a chokehold. 

One Of His Last Victims Asked Rolling If He Was The Serial Killer Right Before Her Death


One Of His Last Victims Asked ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 'Scream' Was Based On A Real Life Serial Killer Who Terrorized A College Town
Photo: Will McC./Wikimedia Commons

Rolling's final victims were Tracy Paules and Manny Toboada, the sole male victim. On August 27, Rolling entered their house and encountered the formidable Toboada - who weighed over 200 pounds. Toboada was sleeping on the couch when he awoke to Rolling. The two physically fought, but Rolling subdued Toboada and stabbed him to death.

During the tussle, Paules came downstairs. When she realized what was happening, she quickly retreated into her bedroom and locked the door. But Rolling broke down her door, bound her, raped her, and stabbed her to death. 

At Rolling's trial, prosecutors revealed Paules's last words identified Rolling as the Gainesville killer. "You're the one, aren't you?" She asked him before being stabbed to death. "Yeah, I'm the one," he replied.