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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Paul Rowles, who police think killed UF finance junior Tiffany Sessions in 1989, killed before.

In 1972, Rowles strangled his Miami neighbor Linda Fida because she wouldn’t stop screaming the night he entered her apartment to rape her.

In 1992, 21-year-old Elizabeth Foster went to a park to read. Her body was found 11 days later.

All the while, Rowles drifted. He moved from Miami to Pinellas County after being paroled, then Gainesville, then Jacksonville.

He was married when he killed Fida. His wife, Linda Schaffer, divorced him nearly a year after the crime.

According to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office documents, Rowles had dreamed of raping women since he was 12 years old, his fantasies triggered by the sight of girls in underwear. He stalked the opposite sex, peeping in windows, knife in hand.

He had a difficult childhood, the son of a mother with bad nerves. Around the time Rowles was 8 — the year he choked a female cat to death — his father tried to hang himself on three occasions. His father may have molested and verbally abused him, telling him he had feminine features, reports say.

He’d sometimes sneak into his victims' apartments to steal their underwear, reports say, especially when it came to Laura, a 15-year-old he kidnapped in 1994.

Rowles took Laura from Clearwater to Jacksonville, stopping in Gainesville for Steak ‘n Shake. They took a side trip to a nearby wooded area.

“This is the kind of place people dump things they don’t want to be found again,” he told her.

But he had no sympathy for the women he preyed on. He saw himself as the victim.

[This story was part of a front-page report on Tiffany Sessions, a UF student who disappeared in 1989. A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/7/2014 under the headline "Paul Rowles."]

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