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Friday, July 01, 2022

Paul Rowles named No. 1 suspect in Tiffany Sessions cold case

<p>A poster with photos of Paul Rowles is on display at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office press conference about the Tiffany Sessions case.</p>

A poster with photos of Paul Rowles is on display at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office press conference about the Tiffany Sessions case.

Serial killer Paul Rowles is likely responsible for the death of Tiffany Sessions 25 years ago.

In a press conference held today in the woods near the intersection of Williston Road and 13th Street, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell identified Rowles as the suspect in the case of Sessions, a UF student who went missing in 1989 when she left her apartment for a walk.

Although there is no DNA evidence linking Rowles and Sessions, investigators seem certain he is the murderer. Rowles died in prison last year after kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl from Clearwater in 1994.

Today, officials urged media members to distribute Rowles' information to the public in hopes people with details come forward.

"This is our chance to close this case," said Sessions' dad, Patrick.

Sessions' parents begged anyone who saw, met or interacted with Rowles to speak up. No tip is too vague or too insignificant — they want to know everything.

"We need that little piece of information that someone has," said Hilary Sessions.

Darnell advised potential tipsters not to be afraid to call in.

"He's dead," Darnell said, "and thank goodness he's dead."

Rowles' "horrible history" centers around violence against women, she said. Rowles confessed to raping and killing 20-year-old Linda Fida in Miami in 1972. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in 1985 and moved to Gainesville in 1988.

Sessions disappeared in 1989.

Twenty-one-year-old Santa Fe College student Elizabeth Foster vanished on March 15, 1992. Her body was found in a shallow grave 11 days later, and an autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

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At the time, police insisted the Foster and Sessions cases were unrelated.

But now, investigators are excavating the site where Foster's body was buried in hopes of finding Sessions' remains.

In 2012, DNA evidence showed Rowles killed Foster. Investigators connected Rowles to Sessions — especially once they found the number two written in his address book with the date "2/9/89." Sessions, who went missing on that date, would have been Rowles' second victim.

Rowles did not confess to killing her, and as noted by an FBI official at the press conference, has not been charged.

But, as Tiffany's brother Jason Sessions said, "It makes the most sense."

[Contact Julia Glum at jglum@alligator.org.]

A poster with photos of Paul Rowles is on display at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office press conference about the Tiffany Sessions case.

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