Day 175 – December 7th, 1991

Yes, it’s been a long time and yes, there are reasons but they’re uninteresting and irrelevant so let’s move on.

Jane Doe was found on the above date days after she was murdered. Unlike her fellow victims in Blink. her murderer was found and convicted of sexual battery. He was acquitted of her homicide. His name is Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr.

I have spent the past week painting her portrait. Her face, aged between 25 and 40 years old, is slightly perfect. The proportions, the bone structure, the lips – if it wasn’t for the grainy black and white photograph and the tight, papery quality of her skin I would swear she was just having a beauty nap. This is so difficult to write about, even more difficult to paint. I’ve had a crisis of faith of sorts in the past weeks, I lost something and it was with this and another portrait I completed this week that I forced myself to reclaim my passion.

There was no moment of clarity, no spark of inspiration I simply had to sit down and doggedly immerse myself in the work once again. I discovered that balance is impossible in Blink. I cannot delegate between the joys of daily life, of summer and then return to the immense pressure I have laid on myself with this endeavour. I am in or I am out. I’m painting 13 hours a day or 0 hours. There is no middle ground. Unhealthy, perhaps but unfortunately I have yet to find an alternative.

Every time I added another layer of paint to this canvas, every time I screwed up a section and had to restart, every time I wanted to give up I just kept repeating, ‘This woman was murdered.’ Not only was she murdered but no one has lain claim to her for almost 23 years.

Her case file tells us she had given birth to at least one child. How old is he/she? Did they know their mother? Are they still alive or do they have their own place in the unidentified persons database? The questions are endless and yet the facts surrounding her death seem quite clear.

Days after she was raped and murdered, a hiker came across her semi-naked body in the woods in Lake County, Florida. He first thought she was a mannequin. It’s possible that her brown hair with blonde tips camouflaged with the stack of tree limbs she had been temporarily buried beneath. The defence alleged the crime scene had been botched; incompetent investigators brushed debris out her multiple stab wounds after initially concluding that she’d been killed (and covered?) by a bear. Later however, after fully uncovering the posed corpse they discovered a glass bottle protruding from her neck, framed by strangulation marks. A stolen Land Rover was found nearby, the detectives working the case questioned it’s owner but later ruled him out.

Then something happened. Or more correctly, nothing happened for almost 4 years. The case lay dormant, along with Jane Doe’s identity.

February 1995 – a computer matches Joseph A. Rolle’s DNA with semen left on the victim. And suddenly Florida, and some argue, the nation was transported into the modern age of criminal justice.

Like many sex offenders, one victim was never going to be enough for Rolle. And Jane Doe probably wasn’t his first. With a charming demeanour, Rolle found no trouble in attracting women. But he had a reputation for diverging the anger of apparent ill’s in his life onto prostitutes. According to police, when things went wrong at home he picked up working girls and raped them. Of course, the case is the same now as it was then, the word of a street girl is never good enough. Perhaps if someone had listened, Jane Doe could have been spared the brutalisation she endured. In 1992, someone did listen but not to a prostitute. Holding a hacksaw to her throat to enforce compliance Rolle violently raped a woman in a friend’s home.

He was sentenced to a meagre 18 months in a state penitentiary. He served 6 months and was released to choke and forcibly rape another woman four times. He lured her with the promise of crack cocaine which indicates she may have been a sex worker and so instead of being arrested for sexual battery he was held on the lesser charge of violating his probation. A pattern has seemed to emerge in the convict’s ferocious violence. One victim reported a hacksaw being held at her throat whilst the other was choked. Meanwhile, Jane Doe gets the full package – she was strangled and stabbed in the neck with a glass bottle. Rolle had a record of other crimes ranging from drunk driving to burglary.

After his previous conviction Rolle’s genetic marker is submitted to what was then a state-wide computer database and hey presto the police have a match.

Rolle became one of the first people in the nation to be accused and convicted by a centralised DNA databank. The trial was predictable. The defence argued against the prosecution’s standard of evidence and investigation while the state attorney’s office needed little once the integrity of DNA evidence was explained to a jury who then would have known little on the subject.

The jury came back with a guilty verdict on the sexual battery but felt they could not be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he went on to kill the victim.

Thankfully, justice would have it’s day. Unlike so many sex crimes both then and today Rolle was not under sentenced. Judge G. Richard Singeltary went above and beyond the sentencing guidelines for Rolle’s crime which was set between 12 and 40 years.

Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr. was sentenced to life in prison where he still resides.

Once again, just as outlined in my previous post, the only reason I was able to recover this information was because the perpetrator’s identity was discovered and made public. Otherwise Jane Doe’s case would only be the sum of the parts of her case file. Justice was served and yet I can’t help feeling unsatisfied. There was no family, no friends sitting on the sidelines to support and remember their loved one while her alleged killer sat comfortably with his mother and sister at his back. The survivor of the first attack for which he was convicted sat solemnly at the sentencing hearing and gave a defiant fist pump to know that she could finally move on with her life.

I hope she thought of herself as sitting in hypothetical solidarity with Jane Doe and all of Rolle’s past and potential future victims too. Jane Doe, in unknowingly sacrificing her life ensured that no more women would fall prey to the barbarity of Rolle.

An earring found with the body of Jane Doe.

 

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