tampabay.com

Mom relies on faith, but patience wears thin

Her daughter was one of the first victims, and she says after 16 years that it's "high time" for Danny Rolling's execution.

By TAMARA LUSH
Published October 24, 2006


Sonja Larson was one of Danny Rolling's first victims. Her mother, Ada, who lives in Ohio, spoke about how she has endured, her desire that Rolling be put to death and her advice to the students who don't remember that horrific weekend sixteen years ago.

How have you sought comfort over the past 16 years? What has kept you going - your faith, being a victims' advocate, family members?

I have been greatly comforted by family and church friends by them showering us with compassion and love. My faith has helped me immensely these past 16 years.

When I get down, I know I can call on God and he always comforts me with wonderful memories of the 18½ years I had with my daughter. I use Sonja's Bible and find it comforting when I see all the passages she highlighted.

One of the things that keeps me going is doing projects that involve Sonja. Early on, I constantly had a project going and to some extent, I still do. It might be making Christmas cards using one of Sonja's paintings, or planting a tree dedicated to her memory, or making a scrapbook of her life.

I also keep things around the house that remind me of her, such as photos, objects she gave me, or her paintings. For the first couple of years, I held an open house on Sonja's Jan. 1 birthday.

I have been involved in trying to change the law regarding the number of appeals a murderer can have. However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional after the voters approved it.

Few current students in Gainesville know about the murders. If you could speak to the students at the school, what would you tell them? What would you tell them about your daughter?

I would tell the students that Sonja was very excited to be attending the University of Florida. She was young, smart, a talented artist, a great friend to have and a wonderful daughter. She enjoyed sports and was a pitcher on her high school team.

I would tell them that they should enjoy their college days, study hard, but most of all, stay safe. Never go out alone after dark and be sure to have safe, secure locks on their doors. Do not take chances.

What are your thoughts about the execution after all these years? Are you afraid that the execution will be stayed for one reason or another?

I think it is high time. It has taken too long to get to the execution. I know there is a chance it will be stayed, but I hope not. I want this all to be over. It is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

You said that you are planning to come to Starke next week and witness the execution. What do you think you will feel after seeing your daughter's killer die?

I have no idea how I will feel witnessing the execution.

It is my understanding that it is as if he will go to sleep. It is not something I am looking forward to doing, but I know my husband, Jim, who died in 1996, would witness, so I will go for both Sonja andJim.

Tamara Lush can be reached at lush@sptimes.com.