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.



Day 115 – Headlines

Philip Zimbardo – “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can sometimes kill you.”

Since the latest massacre in the US hit the headlines in the past week the internet has simply erupted with articles, videos and commentary addressing the topics of toxic misogyny, white middle-class male expectation and sexual harassment. Here, only 30 days ago did we argue these same points.

The facts remain that 2 women and 4 men are dead and once again in the wake of a killing spree the victims identities are of less interest than that of their executioner. Browsing through countless reports in the last 6 days I only once came across the victims names, in brackets. Most of the media-obsessed globe knows about the killer, knows his name, wants his entire medical and family history, wants to read his ‘manifesto’ and has seen the image of his sun-drenched face as he sat relaying the woes of his existence days before his final performance.

No one can object to opening discourse on subjects that have been under-debated for years but the problem is that it’s extremely difficult to foresee any real change coming from this. The Isla Vista gunman will have his fifteen minutes of infamy and so will the issues his crimes have shone the spotlight on. By focusing on him as the archetypal white male misogynist only gives him the attention and platform he craved all along. Why not sever all reference to the ‘Virgin Killer’ and leave him and his hatred to live in the dust where it belongs.

Roughly 88 people suffer from gun deaths each day in the US, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail and there are an estimated 5,000 honour killings internationally per year.

So while discussing gender based violence is an essential endeavour in ending it major online publishers need to maintain this dialogue because as tragic, horrifying and reprehensible as this massacre was it was one instance in an hourly, global epidemic.

And it seems ironic that once again for attention to be called to an international phenomenon it takes a white, middle to upper class man to do it, in the most deranged way he could imagine. All the while organisations of both women and men such as The Joyful Heart Foundation, The Representation Project, Ms. Magazine, Jezebel, RAINN, The Everyday Sexism Project and countless others have been vying for this kind of media coverage on gender based violence for years.

We, as a species, are supremely susceptible to suggestion. It is how the most heinous war crimes are committed, how genocide is justified and how prejudice and discrimination thrive. I have spoken before of the devastating effects of dehumanisation and of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic. Where, in the Western world, religion and politics once dictated social attitudes the media is now our president, our lord and our moral compass.

It’s as if in the last 7 days since the killings the world has suddenly realised that misogyny still exists, in every race, class and age group. Only instead of such men thinking, ‘Women should be homemakers and child bearers’ they are thinking, ‘Women should accept my sexual advances without question.’ How utterly devastating it is however that since asking in my last post – When will it be enough? I have in a way received my answer. A mass murder incited by sexist hatred is what it took when any given day we can find news reports of women being stoned to death for no reason.

Mind-boggling doesn’t even cover it.

Every meaningless loss of life is equally tragic but every meaningless loss of life does not receive the same press coverage.

All we can do is hope that this discourse does lead to social change  but unfortunately I fear that the media, the kingpin of culture, will still go unnamed, unmarred and unblamed.

Katherine Breann Cooper

Veronika Elizabeth Weiss

Cheng Yuan Hong

Weihan Wang

George Chen

Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez



To learn more on any of the topics raised in this article, here are but a few interesting resources:

Joyful Heart Foundation

The Representation Project

National Council of Women Ireland

The Everyday Sexism Project

Honor Based Violence Awareness Network

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network



Day 13/14/15 – Surrender

Of course painting is the mission here so that’s what I’ve been concentrating on over the last few days. And now, considering the lack of visual stimulation thus far here I’ve decided to take a small intermission from Blink. to share with you all the painting that really helped me come to this point.

It’s strange how television that isn’t even on the critical level of, let’s say, Breaking Bad or The Wire can inspire something powerful from a place of crippling fragility and insecurity. Around December I began binge watching Law & Order: SVU as I became bed bound for around six weeks and Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson reignited a resilience and strength I was all but sure no longer existed in me. This character is perhaps one of the only truly independent, autonomous females in television. She is neither the ball-busting man hater nor the wilting violet waiting to be rescued. She is a fine example of what it is to be a true woman and unfortunately, this breed is rare on our screens.

In reality, Hargitay is no less inspiring. She created the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organisation which advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse along with campaigning to reduce, if not end, this kind of violence and works with End The Backlog which aims to eradicate the terrifying number of untested rape kits across the US.

Her earth-splitting beauty was secondary to me, though impossible to ignore. Therefore when I decided I had to paint a portrait of her, instead of choosing a glamourous shot of her looking the conventional idea of beautiful I decided to take a still from the opening episode of SVU Season 15. Here, she has been kidnapped and tortured for four days by a serial rapist referred to as “The Beast.” In the still I chose she has just broken free of her restraints and incapacitated her assailant.

This, for me, was Hargitay at her most beautiful. She was raw, burnt, beaten and fatigued but her face, her eyes, her mouth emanated such intense yet subdued power, a power that stemmed from the most vulnerable of situations that in a way I was a little awe-struck.

It’s the longest I’ve ever spent on a painting, just a little over four weeks of 10 hour days (I have no idea where that time went) but I came out of it with a new perspective on art, beauty and myself. It’s an extremely personal piece that will forever hold a part of my life and as dramatic as it sounds, I’m not sure exactly where I’d be without it.

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