Police: DNA Matches Death-Row Inmate to Cold Case

By Beacon Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – DNA ties a California death row inmate convicted in the killings of seven hikers to the unsolved 1979 slaying of a Montana woman in a San Francisco park, police said.

Cold-case Inspector Joe Toomey said Tuesday that DNA evidence in the stabbing of 23-year-old Mary Bennett matched a sample belonging to David Joseph Carpenter.

Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to file new charges against the 79-year-old San Quentin State Prison inmate.

Bennett grew up in Deer Lodge, Mont., and had recently moved to San Francisco, where she was an intern at an accounting firm at the time of her death.

Her siblings still live in Montana. Toomey said the family was relieved at the DNA find, “but I think it was a shock that we called them out of the blue.”

Bennett’s brother, Joseph, who lives in Plentywood, Mont., said he was surprised that police had followed up on the case.

“I guess it’s nice that they know for sure and it’s put to rest,” Bennett told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m glad they have the person and he’s incarcerated.”

Carpenter became known as the “trailside killer” after the murders of seven hikers in the San Francisco Bay area in the early 1980s. He was sentenced to death for the killings twice in separate trials.

Investigators long suspected Carpenter in Bennett’s slaying but were never able to bring a case against him. Toomey did not specify what evidence contained the DNA connecting Carpenter to Bennett’s killing.

A message left with the prison seeking the name of Carpenter’s current attorney was not immediately returned late Tuesday.

Carpenter was convicted of shooting five people to death in 1980 at Point Reyes National Seashore and Mount Tamalpais, both in Marin County. Prosecutors said he shot his female victims in the head after they refused his sexual advances. Officials say Bennett had been stabbed at least 25 times.

Carpenter was also sentenced to die for killing two women in Santa Cruz County in 1981. The boyfriend of one woman survived and identified Carpenter.

Before the murders, Carpenter had spent most of the previous two decades in prison for assaults in 1960 and rapes and other attacks in 1970. Described by defense witnesses as a victim of child abuse who had a severe stutter, he was hospitalized for mental problems as a teenager.

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