A.K.A.: "The Trailside Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Number of victims: 7 - 11
Date of murders: 1979 - 1980
Date of arrest: May 14, 1981
Date of birth: May 6, 1930
Victims profile: Heather Scaggs / Helen Hansen / Richard Stowers / Cynthia Moreland / Shauna May / Diana O'Connell / Anne Alderson / Anne Kelly Menjivar / Cecelia Ann Sheppard and Bryan Hartnell / Mary Frances Bennett
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Shooting
Location: Marin and Santa Cruz counties, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 6, 1984
David Joseph Carpenter (born May 6, 1930), aka the Trailside Killer, is an American serial killer known for stalking and murdering women on hiking trails near San Francisco, California.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Carpenter was physically abused as a child by his alcoholic father and domineering mother. As a boy, he suffered a severe stutter and a bed-wetting problem, and tortured animals. At 17, he was incarcerated for molesting two of his cousins.
He married in 1955, a union that produced three children.
Carpenter committed an attempted murder in 1960, for which he spent seven years in prison. In 1970, he was arrested for kidnapping, and spent a further seven years behind bars. After his release, he was a suspect in the notorious Zodiac murders, although he was eventually cleared.
From 1979-1980, he raped and murdered five women and was suspected of killing at least two others. He was eventually arrested and found guilty of the murders, for which he was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. He remains on San Quentin's death row.
In December 2009, San Fracisco police reexamined evidence from the October 21, 1979 murder of Mary Frances Bennett. Bennett, 23 years old at the time of her murder, had been jogging at Lands End, San Francisco when she was attacked and stabbed to death. A DNA sample obtained from the evidence was matched to Carpenter through state Department of Justice files. In February 2010, San Francisco police confirmed the match with a recently obtained sample from Carpenter.
David Carpenter was a severe stutterer with an insatiable sex drive and a propensity for violence though, by serial killer standards, he appears to have been a late bloomer. His first serious violent offense ocurred in 1960 when, at the age of 33, he was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison for attacking a woman with a hammer and knife. He spent a little more than half of that sentence behind bars, earning a return trip to prison in 1970 for kidnapping and was released 1977. Between his two extended prison stays he was a major suspect in the famous Zodiac murders but was eventually cleared.
Carpenter may have proved not to be the Zodiac but it wasn't long before he was claiming lives of his own. His first victim may have been an aquaintance, Anne Kelly Menjivar, who disappeared from her home in late 1979 and was found dead in Mt. Tamalpais Park, located in the San Francisco Bay area. He death was not linked to Carpenter until after his arrest. Mt. Tamalpais was also the scene of the next three murders.
In August of 1979 Edda Kane disappeared from the park while hiking. She was found shot in the back of the head in a kneeling position. Then in March of 1980 Barbera Schwartz, 23, was found in the same position as Kane, but died of stab wounds to the chest. 26-year-old Anne Alderson was next in October when she was found shot in the head after vanishing during a jog. The police had what appeared to be an excellent suspect soon afterward when a man who lived with his mother and brother on Mt. Tamalpais was caught after killing his two family members and hiding in the surrounding woods for a few days. He was soon cleared of suspicion and the "Trailside Killer" continued his killings.
Carpenter made his mark in the media on November 29, 1980. Two days earlier Shawna May, 25, disappeared from Point Reyes Park while hiking. Two days later she was found dead from a bullet to the head. This time however she was joined by Diane O'Connell, 22, who had disappeared about a month earlier form the park. She was found beside May's shallow grave, also shot in the head.
As if that wasn't enough, later in the day two more bodies were found in Point Reyes , both victims of the mysterious killer. Cynthia Moreland, 18. and Richard Towers, 19, had been killed on the same October weekend as Alderson in October. The media frenzy focused on the case with the discovery of four bodies in one day was almost expected and near-panic ensued.
In March of 1981 Carpenter struck yet again, killing Ellen Hanson in a park near Santa Cruz. Her boyfriend survived, however, and gave police enough of a description to finally release a composite sketch of the suspect.
Parkgoers also told police of a small red car that was in the area duing the attack. Armed with this info all the cops needed was a break and they go one on May 1, 1981, although it would be at the expense of one more victim. 20-year-old Heather Scaggs disappeared on her way to the home of Carpenter, who knew her from work and was rumored to have attempted to date the young woman. When police came to his home to question him, they couldn't help but notice his resemblance to the composite sketch of the Trailside Killer and his shiny red Fiat, a dead-ringer for the car seen near the Hanson murder scene. They kept Carpenter under surveillance until Scaggs' body turned up in Big Basin State Park and he was finally arrested.
Carpenter had a history of sex crimes. An aquaintance admitted selling the ex-con a .45 which was used in several of the killings, though Carpenter had gotten rid of it by the time of his arrest. A .38 another man had bought from Carpenter proved to be the gun used in the last two killings. It was an open-and-shut case and on July 6, 1984, the "Trailside Killer" was sentenced to die in the gas chamber for the Hansen and Scaggs murders. He was later tried and convicted of murder in five of the other slayings.
Carpenter, David J.
It took some time for brooding rage to surface in the case of David Carpenter, but when it reached the surface there were no holds barred.
In 1961, when he was thirty-three years old, the future "Trailside Killer" brutally attacked a woman with a hammer, earning fourteen years in prison for his trouble. Back in circulation by the latter part of 1970, he drew another seven years on two counts of kidnapping and robbery. Before his transfer to the penitentiary, he joined four other inmates in escaping from the Calaveras County jail. Recaptured by the FBI, he did his time and was paroled in 1977.
He found a job in San Francisco, working for a photo print shop, and gave evidence of "going straight." In fact, his brief hiatus was the calm before a lethal storm. The terror began with Edda Kane, age 44, whose naked, violated body was discovered on a hiking trail in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, near San Francisco, on August 20, 1979.
According to forensics experts, she was murdered execution-style, shot through the head while kneeling, possibly while pleading for her life. March 7, 1980, Barbara Swartz, age 23, went hiking in the park. Her body was recovered one day later on a narrow, unpaved trail. She had been stabbed repeatedly about the chest, while kneeling in the dirt. Anne Alderson went jogging on the fringes of the park, October 15, 1980, and did not return.
The 26-year-old was found next afternoon; three bullets in the head had snuffed her life while she was kneeling at her killer's feet. November 27, Shauna May, age 25, did not show up to keep a lover's rendezvous in the parking lot at Point Reyes Park, a few miles north of San Francisco.
Two days later, searchers found her body in a shallow grave. Beside her lay the decomposing corpse of a New Yorker, 22-year-old Diana O'Connell, who had disappeared while hiking in the park a full month earlier. Both women had been killed by gunshots to the head.
Mere hours before the corpses at Point Reyes were unearthed, November 29, two other victims were discovered in the park. Identified as Richard Stowers, 19, and Cynthia Moreland, 18, they had been missing since September, when they told friends of their plans for hiking in the area. Again, both victims had been murdered execution-style. As panic gripped the Northern California camping areas, the media indulged in speculation linking the sadistic "Trailside Killer" with the "Zodiac," another serial assassin -- still at large -- responsible for seven murders in the latter 1960s.
Homicide detectives had not linked the Zodiac with any documented crimes since 1969, and now the press began to speculate on his return, perhaps from serving time in prison or a sanitarium. Unlike the Zodiac, however, the elusive "Trailside Killer" felt no need to taunt police with mocking letters. He was satisfied to let his actions speak out, loud and clear.
On March 29, 1981, the killer struck again, this time in Henry Cowle State Park, near Santa Cruz. He ambushed hikers Stephen Haertle and Ellen Hansen, brandishing a .38, announcing to the woman that he meant to rape her. When she warned him off, the gunman opened fire, killing her outright and leaving young Haertle for dead.
Surviving wounds that ripped his neck, a hand, and one eye, the lone survivor crawled for help. He had been close enough to offer homicide detectives a description of the killer's crooked, yellow teeth. Upon release of the description, other hikers told police that they had seen a man resembling the gunman in a red, late model foreign car. Despite the new, important leads, police had reason for concern. From all appearances, publicity had caused their man to change his hunting ground and weapon. All the other gunshot victims had been murdered with a .45, and if the pistol was destroyed or lost, a major portion of their case might well go up in smoke.
On May 1, 1981, a resident of San Jose informed detectives that his girlfriend, Heather Scaggs, was missing. She had last been seen en route to buy a car from fellow print shop worker David Carpenter, who lived in San Francisco.
Carpenter, she said, had made a special point of asking her to come alone when she dropped buy to get the car. Police dropped in to question Carpenter, immediately noticing his strong resemblance to composite sketches of the Trailside Killer. In his driveway sat a small, red, foreign car.
A background check revealed his felony arrests, and Stephen Haertle picked the suspect's mug shot as a likeness of the Santa Cruz assailant. Carpenter was taken into custody on May 14, and ten days later, the remains of Heather Scaggs were found by hikers in Big Basin Redwood State Park, north of San Francisco.
She had been executed with the pistol used on Stephen Haertle and his girlfriend, Ellen Hansen, back in March. Despite a search of Carpenter's belongings, homicide investigators still had not recovered any weapons.
Finally, they got a break, discovering a witness who remembered selling Carpenter a .45 -- illegal, in itself for a convicted felon -- and although they never found the gun, at least a link, of sorts, had been established to the early homicides.
A short time later, testimony from a suspect facing trial for robbery revealed that Carpenter had sold the thief a .38 revolver back in June.
The weapon was recovered, and its barrel markings matched the bullets fired at Ellen Hansen, Heather Scaggs, and Stephen Haertle. As detectives worked to build their case, they linked their suspect with another unsolved homicide.
On June 4, 1980, Anna Menjivas had been discovered, dead, in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Her murder had not been connected with the "Trailside" slayings at the time, but now investigators learned she was a long-time friend of David Carpenter, who often let him drive her home from work.
The link appeared too strong for mere coincidence, and Anna's name was added to the murder chain, for ten in all. Publicity led Carpenter's defense attorneys to request a change of venue. When his trial convened in April 1984, he faced a jury in Los Angeles, but relocation did not change the damning evidence of guilt. Convicted of the Scaggs and Hansen murders on July 6, Carpenter was sentenced to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin. Judge Dion Morrow, in pronouncing sentence, told the court, "The defendant's entire life has been a continuous expression of violence and force almost beyond exception. I must conclude with the prosecution that if ever there was a case appropriate for the death penalty, this is it."
On May 10, 1988, a San Diego jury convicted Carpenter of first degree murder in the slayings of Richard Stowers, Cynthia Moreland, Shauna May, Diana O'Connell, and Anne Alderson.
Carpenter was also pronounced guilty of raping two of the women and attempting to rape a third.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
The Trailside Killer of San Francisco
By Katherine Ramsland
Edda Kane went out on August 19 in 1979 to hike the trails in a park at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, also known as "the Sleeping Lady," which overlooked San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. At 44, she was a married bank executive with an athletic lifestyle. On this day, she found no one to join her, so she went out alone to get her workout. But she did not return home that day, so her worried husband contacted the police. Believing she was in trouble, they sent out a search team, including dog handlers, just in case she had fallen and was in some inaccessible place. But despite the fact that her car remained untouched in the parking lot, they failed to locate her that night.
Found the next day, Edda was dead. She'd been attacked from behind and had a bullet wound on the back of her skull. The police believed, from her position on her knees with her face on the ground, that possibly she had been forced to show subservience to her killer, perhaps even to beg for her life. The killer had removed $10 from her wallet, along with some credit cards, and had taken her glasses but had left her jewelry. It was the first known killing on Tamalpais.
Witnesses described two lone men, one blond and acting rather strangely, and the other wearing a dark blue jacket which apparently made him sweat. He'd hid his face with it, but people estimated that he was about 35.
The autopsy showed that Edda had been shot once with a .44-caliber gun and it appeared that she'd been the victim of an execution style attack. Yet she had not been raped, so the motive for this unthinkable attack remained a mystery. In fact, no one who knew Edda could think of any reason why someone might want to harm her. There was little evidence in the area to assist the police to track her killer, so the murder went unsolved. It shook up people who used the park, but after a while things returned to normal. Eventually, however, Edda Kane's murder would gain a different status as more than just an isolated unsolved homicide; it would become the first of more to come.
The principal source for this spate of murders during the early 1980s is Robert Graysmith's book, The Sleeping Lady, as well as news reports from area California papers, primarily the San Francisco Chronicle. Another key source is John Douglas' first book, Mindhunter, because he was the FBI profiler who got involved in the case when it appeared that a serial killer was on the loose. He provides important insights into how this killer was studied, as well as explanations for why he might have been a psychopathic lust killer in the first place.
Graysmith opens his book with the legend of the Sleeping Lady: a sun god fell in love with an Indian maiden, so he carried her off into the sky. But then he stumbled over Mount Diablo and as he fell back to Earth, she was killed. The place where she hit the ground is where the mountain supposedly grew up into the profile of a sleeping woman. Or a dead one.
Not until spring the following year was there another violent incident, but in early March, the body of Barbara Schwartz, 23, was found murdered in the same park where Edda Kane was killed. Out hiking with her dog on the 8th, the young baker had been repeatedly stabbed rather than shot, and her wounds had been to the chest. But there had been a witness who had watched the entire episode, and it was she who led the rangers to the crime scene.
This female hiker was watching through the trees as a thin, athletic man, about twenty-five, she guessed, approached Barbara Schwartz, whose dog was barking. He had a hawk nose and dark hair, and he wore hiking boots. To her surprise, he suddenly began to stab Barbara with a knife. They struggled for nearly a minute, and then he fled as Barbara fell to the ground. The witness ran for help, so the crime scene was quickly processed and a witness report drawn up. Police found a pair of blood-stained bifocal glasses that they hoped had belonged to the killer.
In retrospect, the witness's description would prove to be wildly erroneous in every respect — which she herself would later admit — and it would mislead the investigation for some time. Other hikers that day had seen a lone male, wearing glasses, who looked to be in his forties. He wore a raincoat, despite the fact that it was not raining. Although no one knew it at the time, this man was more likely Barbara's killer.
The pathologist counted twelve separate wounds in her chest and he estimated that her attacker had used a ten-inch knife. A few days later, some kids found a boning knife near the crime scene, crusted with blood. It proved to have been purchased at a chain grocery store, but the specific location could not be pinned down. Unfortunately, a TV reporter handled it, obliterating fingerprints.
The bifocals found near Barbara turned out to be prison issue, so investigators busily checked lists of recently released convicts, especially those with a record of sex crimes who resembled the sketch a police artist had made from the witness report. At this point, the FBI's San Francisco-based field office got involved, along with other agencies. However, the investigation turned up no good leads.
In fact, the police in another jurisdiction did question a man that night who claimed to have been wounded in a convenience store attack, but having no access to the Marin County all-points bulletin, they failed to put and two together. While they cannot be blamed for that, they neglected to find out that there had been a convenience store robbery in the area. In any event, this man, with his quiet manner, looked nothing like the predator who had stabbed Barbara Schwartz to death, so the link would probably not have been made that night.
The next day, the wounded man visited an optometrist — Barbara Schwartz's doctor — to get a new pair of glasses. Although police questioned him about Barbara's prescription, he never heard about or saw the flyer about the eyeglasses found at the scene. That was unfortunate, for it's likely he would have recognized the unique prescription. Instead, the killer was free to continue.
Again, months passed, and then another young woman entered the park alone to go jogging. People were certainly afraid about being in the wilderness areas, but a few wanted to demonstrate that the parklands were largely safe. They would soon learn differently.
Anne Alderson, 26 and a former Peace Corps volunteer, was seen by several people on October 15, at the end of a long Columbus Day weekend, and the park's caretaker recalled seeing her sitting alone in the 5,000-seat amphitheater to watch the sunset. He considered warning her about the potential danger of being alone at dusk but decided not to disturb her. Graysmith says that earlier that day this same witness had seen a lone male in the area as well, around age 50, who was just standing around. Two other people, says John Douglas, recalled seeing Anne near the area where Edda Kane had been killed over a year before. Then she apparently came under attack, an easy mark, by all accounts.
She, too, had also been shot with a single bullet from a .38 pistol, which had gone through the right side of her head, but in this incident, there was a significant difference: Anne had been raped and then allowed to get dressed again. Her right earring was missing and she'd been propped, face up, against a rock. What linked this murder clearly to Edda Kane's was her position. It appeared from her twisted arrangement that she might have been forced to kneel as well before being killed. What police did not yet know is that there were two other victims that weekend, but only Anne had been quickly found.
Not far away, a double homicide around the same time provided a tentative lead on a suspect, because the victims had both been shot by an apparently demented individual.
A Good Suspect
In a home not far from Mount Tamalpais on October 16, 1980, two people were found shot to death. According to the court records, this is what occurred: Mark McDermand, 35, and his brother, Edwin, 40, both resided with their mother, Helen McDermand, 75, in Mill Valley. At approximately 8:30 P.M. sheriff's deputies forced their way into the home at the request of a concerned friend. They found the body of a man lying in a hallway off to the left of the living room, whom they learned was Edwin. He had been dead approximately 12 hours, and several bullet wounds were evident in his head and chest.
In a locked bedroom was the body of an elderly woman, subsequently identified as Helen, lying on the bed and covered by a blanket. The body had a single bullet wound behind the left ear. Scattered around the floor were eight spent .22 caliber casings: five near Edwin's body, one in the living room near the door to Helen's bedroom, one near a bookshelf between Edwin's and Helen's bedrooms, and one in Edwin's bedroom.
Looking around, the deputies went outside and observed a small, padlocked door leading into the basement. After forcing entry, they discovered a note tacked to the inner side of the door, addressed to "Shitheels" and stating that by the time the note was discovered, the reader would be "way too late;" the author would be found on the news or on a "slab." It was signed "Mr. Hate."
This smelly, dirty basement area had been the bedroom of Mark McDermand. He seemed a likely suspect, as there were spent .38 caliber casings in his room, along with three live rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, and ankle holsters for a handgun and a knife.
The coroner said later that while it was impossible to determine either victim's exact time of the death, samples of the vitreous humor fluid from their eyes suggested that both deaths had occurred from three to four days earlier.
Within a few days, the local newspapers and the Marin County Sheriff and other members of his staff received letters from an individual who claimed responsibility. A handwriting expert testified that the author of these letters was the same person who had written the note tacked to Mark's bedroom door; the writer claimed he would not be captured alive. Clearly he was following the news coverage, so the police devised a plan to lure him in: they indicated that if he surrendered, they would treat him fairly. They ran a letter directed to Mark, giving him a phone number.
An individual identifying himself as Mark McDermand called the number that evening, October 24. He said he would consider giving himself up, but he had some things to do first. He called again two days later, describing details about the killings. He said he had tried to kill his mother and brother quickly, but he'd miscalculated with Edwin and had to shoot him five or six times. His motive was to stop Edwin from hurting others and to prevent his mother from realizing that he'd killed Edwin. He then agreed to turn himself in the following day.
When he approached the police, McDermand was wearing a belt with a .38-caliber revolver in it. He also had a set of thumb cuffs and three speed loaders. In his car was a .22-caliber pistol, a .12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, a metal box containing numerous hypodermic syringes, and some vials of insulin. Mark had diabetes.
When the investigation was complete, the police thought they had a good sense of the story. Edwin had a record of acting strangely and been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He deteriorated rapidly. Mark became impatient, referring to him as "It" or "the Thing." On one or more occasion during the six-month period prior to the murders, he had confided to a friend in a dejected manner that he didn't know what would become of his brother once their mother was gone, and that someday he "would put 'it' out of its misery."
McDermand had borrowed the guns he used in the homicides, and had then prepared himself to go on the run for a number of months. In his defense, he said that he had acted out of diminished capacity and indicated that, like his brother and mother, he suffered from schizophrenia. There was little dispute that Edwin's mental state was disorganized, and evidence was offered that Mark, too, had experienced headaches and blackouts. He claimed he could not even remember the murders, or when he did, he recalled a number of different versions.
The jury nevertheless found Mark McDermand guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, and he received the death penalty. Yet his potential part in the trailside murders was quickly resolved: none of his weapons matched the bullets used on the two victims who'd been shot. And, most telling, after he was in custody, the murders continued. The next discovery was horrifying.
Gruesome Dump Site
Late that November, it became clear that the killer had been busier than the police had realized; four bodies were found on the same day, and the victims appeared to have been killed in pairs, two recently and two at least six weeks earlier.
A young woman named Shauna May was supposed to meet friends on November 28 in Point Reyes National Seashore Park to go hiking. This park was a few miles north of San Francisco and had not yet become the scene of slaughter. When she failed to show, her friends alerted park officials. It was two days before they found her nude body. She'd been trussed with picture frame wire, shot three times in the head, and shoved into a shallow trench. The autopsy later determined that she had been raped.
Close by, to the point of touching her, was the body of another young woman, twenty-two-year-old Diana O'Connell. She, too, had gone missing while hiking with friends. One had been in front of her on the path, the other some ways behind. Neither saw her slip away.
The two victims lay together, face down. It seemed that Diana, shot once in the head, had been murdered at the same time as Shauna May, since another hiker had heard four shots in that area at mid-afternoon. Their clothing was piled onto their knapsacks and a pair of panties was stuffed in Diana's mouth. She'd been strangled with wire and raped as well. The police assumed that the killer had interrupted one of these women in her hike with the intention of rape and the other had come along at the wrong time. As a witness, she had to be eliminated, too. A later investigation indicated they had not known each other.
But the day turned out to be worse than anyone had anticipated. During the search, two more bodies were discovered just half a mile away — actually found first — and both victims had been shot in the head. For the first time, one victim was male. They were identified as Richard Stowers, 19, and Cynthia Moreland, 18. They had been engaged to be married and had gone hiking together in mid-October, in an area that Cynthia reportedly knew quite well. They'd been reported missing on October 11, but had not been found. In fact, Rick was considered to be AWOL from the coast guard.
An autopsy placed their time of death just a few days before that of Anne Alderson. So either there were two predators roaming the area or the same person had gone looking for victims in two different parks. Then ballistics analysis confirmed that the killer of Anne Alderson had also shot May and O'Connell. There was one very deadly predator.
Hikers were warned in both parks not to hike alone, although being with another person had not helped Stowers and Moreland. People who loved the nature trails found other places to go or remained home until the murders were solved.
Those people who had spotted a victim with someone offered what little they could recall, and Marin County Sheriff G. Albert Howenstein Jr. had a composite drawing made to show others who'd also been in the area. However, it was difficult to get a consensus on key features. Douglas says that the witnesses conflicted on such things as the age of the man seen with a victim, and his facial features.
Many people still recalled an earlier series of murders in the area that had never been solved, and Douglas indicates that there was speculation about whether he'd risen his ugly head again.
Zodiac - David Carpenter
Between December 1968 and July 1969, a decade earlier than the Trailside Killings, a man shot two couples in Vallejo, California, on two separate occasions, and called to take credit for them. One young man had survived to give a description. Then the editors of three San Francisco papers each received part of a strange letter claiming to be from the Vallejo killer. He had used too much postage and his message consisted of a printed cryptogram composed of symbols and signed with a crossed-circle symbol. One had to put them all together to crack the code, which a local teacher, after painstaking work, managed to do. Its author was clearly playing a sadistic game, as he described his joy in killing people and his intention to keep doing so.
Thus began a cat-and-mouse game by "the Zodiac," as he called himself. Then he attacked a third couple. On September 27, 1969, Cecelia Ann Shepard and her friend, Bryan Hartnell, were picnicking at Lake Berryessa, where a man wearing a black executioner's hood approached them. He stabbed them, attacking the girl repeatedly, and afterward called the police to report it. He struck again, two weeks later, killing cab driver Paul Stine. Soon after, the Chronicle received a letter with a torn piece of Stine's shirt. Yet no leads proved productive, and there was speculation that this same killer had been responsible for the murder of a young woman in another town as well. The Zodiac kept in sporadic contact with the SFPD and the Chronicle, but his killing seemed to end with seven victims, despite more extravagant claims —and threats — on his part.
Many different suspects were developed, but none checked out. The case proved to be one of the rare times when a serial murderer appeared to be quite clever and well-educated, making his crimes into a layered series of games. That he seemed to withdraw and lie low proved disturbing, because if he remained at large, he could always start up again, there or elsewhere. Douglas suggested that he might have been arrested for something, which had kept him from acting. For all anyone knew, this was the same person, freshly released, although the MO was certainly different. No one was calling to take credit for these murders, nor offering any codes.
Winter passed without further mishaps that anyone knew of (they would later learn this was not the case), but the police were busy with their investigation. Still, they had no leads. Around this time, the new art of profiling got some play. Graysmith is dismissive, but John Douglas actually had something interesting to say.
In 1980, Douglas writes, the police from the San Francisco Bay area had requested the FBI's help on the series of hiking path murders. By this time, the press had already dubbed the offender the "Trailside Killer." The initial request went to Special Agent Roy Hazelwood, who was a sex crimes expert. He and Douglas had published an article that year about lust murder, setting forth the distinctions between organized and disorganized killers, and Hazelwood believed that sexual assault was generally motivated by aggression, sex or power. The fantasies that occur around puberty influenced the type of victim a lust killer selects, as well as his approach, preferred sexual activities, rituals, and decision to complete the act (or not) with murder.
Hazelwood viewed sex offenders as either impulsive or ritualistic. Impulsive offenders were opportunistic and generally of lower intelligence and economic means, and their sexual behavior often served power or anger needs. Ritualistic offenders, on the other hand, indulged in paraphilias and compulsive behaviors that satisfied a specific psychological need. As they centered their lives around this activity, they learned to lie and manipulate in order to keep it hidden from others and secretly active.
Hazelwood discussed the case with Douglas, who at that time was the Bureau's only full-time profiler in the field, and they worked it together. They were both part of the first generation of FBI profilers, an elite group of agents hand-picked to learn the art of the psychological analysis of crime scenes. They had yet to have any striking cases that would gain them national exposure, but they were being consulted more often by local jurisdictions whose investigators were willing to look into any avenue for assistance.
The basic idea of a criminal profile was to acquire a body of information that revealed a common pattern for a general description of an UNSUB (unknown subject) in terms of habit, possible employment, martial status, mental state, and personality traits. Probing for an experiential assessment of a criminal from a series of crime scenes involved a detailed victimology — learning significant facts about the victim's life, especially in the days and hours leading up to his or her death. Their movements were mapped and investigators study all of their personal communications for signals to where they may have crossed paths with a viable suspect.
Douglas went to San Francisco to examine the crime scene data and case photos, and he said the killer would be familiar with the area (so a local man), but he was shy, reclusive, and may have a speech impediment. Contrary to what some local psychologists had decided, who had described the offender as charming, sophisticated and good-looking, Douglas thought he would be unsure of himself in social situations. He chose victims of opportunity rather than preferring a certain victim type. He was white, intelligent, blue collar, and had spent time in jail. His MO was to approach from behind, if possible, and become aggressive to overwhelm the victim. He was "like a spider waiting for a bug to fly into his web." He'd have a history of at least two of the three background indicators: fire-starting, bed-wetting, and cruelty animals. Douglas although thought he was probably in his thirties and had recently experienced some precipitating stressors. While he had committed rape before this series of murders, he had not killed.
That Douglas had been so specific about the speech impediment drew a lot of doubt from the task force members; they wondered how he could know something like that. Douglas explained that the secluded killing areas, the method of approach, and the fact that the offender did not approach his victims in a social situation to lure them indicated some degree of shyness or shame. He believed it was due to a physical malady. Overpowering someone gave the killer some sense of compensation for his handicap. "He has some kind of defect that really bothers him," he said.
The profile did not offer anything that one could call a viable lead unless they had a suspect, so the police were still in the same place. They had a guy who roamed the thickest areas of the hiking trails, lying in wait for potential victims. With the many miles of trails around San Francisco, there wasn't much they could do.
After Douglas returned to Quantico, the killer struck again in March 1981. This time, though, he made a serious blunder. For him, it was the beginning of the end, even though he had switched to yet another park.
Ellen Marie Hansen and Stephen Haertle, undergraduates at the University of California at Davis, were hiking in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park on March 29, 1981. This area was about eighty miles south of San Francisco, near to Santa Cruz — another town that had suffered a series of murders during the early 1970s. Edmund Kemper, John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullin had killed there around the same time, Frazier targeting a family, Kemper killing coeds, and Mullin imagining he had to eliminate "sacrifices" to protect the state from an earthquake. It had been nearly a decade, however, since all of that had happened and all three offenders were safely behind bars.
Steve Haertle would later describe what had taken place, as he managed to survive despite being shot. A man approached them, he said, not far from an observation deck and he had a pistol in his hand. He threatened them with it and insisted that Hansen allow him to rape her. She refused, and Haertle begged the man to let them go, but the stranger lifted his gun and in front of Haertle, shot Hansen point-blank, twice, in the head and once in the shoulder. Haertle was horrified but unable to get away as the stranger then shot him as well. However, the bullets burrowed through his neck, so he was not killed. The man fled the area as Haertle sought help from other hikers.
He was obviously in a perfect position to offer police a description of this attacker, although trauma involving guns often interferes with one's memory. Steve did recall the man's crooked yellow teeth and thought he was about fifty and balding. He'd had a backpack and wore dark glasses, as well as a gold jacket with lettering on the back and a baseball cap. In addition, he'd spoken in quick, commanding sentences. Steve estimate that he'd been about five-foot-ten to six feet tall, and about 170 pounds.
Along with what Haertle offered, other people also reported a man they had seen on the observation deck, running after the gunshots, and driving off in a red car of foreign make. One girl thought it was a Fiat. The Post Standard indicated that there had been seven witnesses altogether who reported the man to the police. The resulting physical description differed markedly from that of the Marin County Killer, but not the MO.
As much as police need to rely on eyewitnesses, they also know that memory is tricky and many people who believe in what they've seen are nevertheless wrong. About 80% of people exonerated in recent years, who served time in prison, can attest to the mistakes. One man even had five witnesses give erroneous testimony that linked him to a murder.
Yet investigators did manage to get some good shoeprint impressions, so that if they developed a suspect, they could compare his shoe size, and perhaps even his shoes, (if he didn't toss them), to the impressions.
They ran the composite drawing in a number of newspapers, both to alert people to what this dangerous person looked like and to get new leads from residents who might know him. Only four days later, a woman called to describe a man who resembled the picture. She had been on a cruise to Japan some twenty-six years earlier and had confronted a young man named David Carpenter, a purser on that cruise, who had been bothering her daughter with inappropriate behavior. She recalled that he had stuttered — the speech impediment that Douglas had suggested — and had proof of his name from where he'd signed her daughter's book.
The police looked into it, but there were many men in northern California named David Carpenter. As they moved forward with their investigation, the killer was reading the newspaper. He decided it was time to grow a beard. He also had found a way to lure another young woman into his net. However, this time he killed much closer to home, leading the police right to him. Either stupid or arrogant, he made yet another mistake, and while the police benefited, a pretty blond fell victim.
The Trusted Friend
On May 2, Heather Roxanne Scaggs, 20, told her boyfriend that she was going to see David Carpenter about a used car; supposedly, a friend of Carpenter's was selling it and he was going to help her to purchase it. She was a student at Econo Quick Print, where Carpenter taught people how to use computer typesetting machines, and sometimes he had given her a lift home in a company car. She had mentioned wanting a car of her own, so he'd told her about this opportunity. He even offered to loan her whatever amount she did not yet have. In fact, he pressured her so much with additional incentives that she finally gave in and agreed to go see it. Before leaving, she gave her boyfriend, Dan Pingle, the number and address of David Carpenter, and a time when she expected to return.
But she did not return then, or hours later, so Pingle went looking for her and confronted Carpenter. He pretended that they'd never connected that morning. Now frantic, Pingle alerted the police. He knew that Carpenter had instructed Heather not to tell anyone where she was going and to bring $400 for the car. She'd been in a vulnerable position and had even expressed some concern about going.
Heather's disappearance brought up Carpenter's name again, already identified as resembling the composite drawing. That was too great a coincidence. Although no body had been found, Heather was about the right age to possibly have become a victim like those killed along hiking trails. The police checked records and found Carpenter's parole officer, Richard Wood. As he listened to their concerns, he started to add things up. Graysmith records his gut-level impression that Carpenter might be the killer the police were looking for.
The police now learned that Carpenter had not shown up in the records of released inmates when they'd initially looked, due to a technicality. He had been released by California to serve a federal sentence, Douglas explains, and while free, he was technically in federal custody. If not for this, he might have been flagged much earlier.
Wood thought they should keep a watchful eye on Carpenter, and he did what he could to facilitate their access to him. Detectives interviewed him about Heather and thought he resembled the composite of the person seen at the Trailside Murders' sites. They had also learned that he was a habitual sex offender, another item not fully documented in his records. The multi-agency task force got into gear to start following him.
"Please Don't Hurt Me"
The FBI, along with local authorities, set up a surveillance van outside the house at 36 Sussex Street in San Francisco where David Joseph Carpenter, 51, lived with his aging parents. They also followed him to places he went, especially when he associated with other criminals. Graysmith includes several photos from a videotape when they caught him walking with a shopping bag in his hand. They approached him carefully, speaking in soft tones so as not to alarm him or inspire him to reach for whatever was in the bag. He seemed confused at first, but soon insisted on getting a lawyer. At this point, the agents told him he was under arrest.
"Please don't hurt me," he begged.
In Carpenter's car, a red Fiat with a bent tailpipe (as described by witnesses), police found books about local hiking trails, along with many more such maps in his home — over sixty in all. They also located Carpenter's former fiancé, who told them that Carpenter had lost his gold jacket around the time of the Hansen murder. He said it had been stolen, although that had struck her as unlikely. This testimony proved that he'd at least had a gold jacket at that time, placing him circumstantially at the site of the shooting of Hansen and Haertle.
Thus, Carpenter drove a car similar to the one described by the surviving victim, had the same optometrist as another victim, had the right distinctive type of clothing, and had a record for violent sex crimes. He also suffered from explosive rages and had recently tried to change his "look" with a different type of frame for his glasses. In addition, several witnesses had recognized him as the man who had been in the area of an attack.
The police put him in a line-up, inviting everyone who had made a report to participate. Steve Haertle went to the station to endure the ordeal of seeing again the man who had shot him and killed his girlfriend. Despite the newly-grown beard hiding Carpenter's face, Steve quickly picked him out as the perpetrator. The Post-Standard indicated that six out of the seven witnesses did the same, although several were not quite certain. (Graysmith says that three were unable to make the identification.) A car line-up was also arranged and witnesses identified the Fiat. Carpenter was formally charged in the murder and attempted murder in Santa Cruz. At his arraignment, he stuttered so badly he had a difficult time answering the judge's questions, which was to simply agree that his name was as stated.
"Carpenter's face contorted and his head shook as he struggled to respond," states the Post-Standard. "He finally managed to utter a 'yes' after the passage of several seconds."
On May 15, 1981, newspapers published the stories about Carpenter, the supposed Trailside Killer. In a press conference, officials reiterated that they believed the killer of eight had psychologically tortured his victims first.
Then decomposed remains of a female were found in Big Basin Redwoods Park on Sunday, May 24. Her killer had apparently tried to hide her body under a lot of brush. He'd removed her clothing and taken everything except an earring — smiliar to an earlier murder. An analysis of the dental work indicated that they had found Heather Scaggs. She had been raped and shot once through the eye with a .38. That made nine dead.
The Man Behind the Predator
By May 27, the Syracuse Herald-Journal noted that Marin County District Attorney Jerry Herman was going to file charges against Carpenter in five more of the murders, all linked via ballistics analysis to Carpenter's guns, and he held out hope that evidence would surface in at least another murder. He was not going to file charges in the murders of Barbara Schwartz or Edda Kane, since evidence was lacking. One of them had been stabbed with a knife on which there were no usable prints and the other killed with a different gun, which had not been found. Still, the office would continue to investigate.
Oddly enough, Lane and Gregg indicate that Carpenter had been a suspect for a time in the Zodiac killings, but his handwriting and fingerprints had cleared him. A few people recall him at one point claiming to be the Zodiac.
Whatever the case, his background was being thoroughly scrutinized. Born on May 6, 1930, in San Francisco, Carpenter had been raised by strict and aggressive parents. His alcoholic father beat him or neglected him, while his near-blind mother was described as domineering. By the time he was seven, he was stuttering so badly he had a difficult time in any social situation. He was often ridiculed, which made him painfully reclusive. He received no therapy but was instead forced to participate in extracurricular activities, such as ballet and piano. He took out his frustrations on animals and also wet the bed (two of the three indicators, as Douglas pointed out).
As he grew into adolescence, he looked for opportunities to express his developing sex drive and by the time he was seventeen, David had been arrested for molesting two young children, his cousins. He served a year and apparently learned nothing from the California Youth Authority, because once released, he became more predatory. Frasier states that he continued offending until he got married in 1955.
Carpenter worked at various occupations, including as a ship's purser, a salesman, and a printer. He apparently had a demanding sex drive that he tried keeping under control by subjecting his wife to his constant need. They had three children together, but Carpenter could not continue to control himself. In addition to his violent rages, he also prowled around, looking for other women. Finally, his drive was so desperate, he resorted to outright violence.
In one incident in 1960, fully described by Graysmith, Carpenter had befriended a woman, inviting her to his home to meet his wife and including her in some of his celebratory moments. Then one day, he picked her up, but instead of taking her to work as promised, he drove to a wooded area of the Presidio and then acted as if he was lost. At some point he grabbed her, straddled her, and used a clothesline to bind her. With a knife, he threatened her, forcing her to be still. He told her he had a "funny quirk" that needed to be satisfied. When she resisted and tried to get away, he struck her several times with a hammer. Douglas states that prior to and during the incident, he lost his crippling stutter. The victim described his speech as slow and deliberate, in contrast to the way he usually talked, and he had seemed unduly angry.
This woman might have been Carpenter's first murder victim had she not been saved by a suspicious military patrol officer who heard her call for help. He'd been looking for Carpenter's car, having spotted it earlier, and when he saw what was happening, he commanded Carpenter to stop. Carpenter shot at him, missing, so he returned fire and wounded Carpenter. Then the MP arrested Carpenter and took him in. The victim survived, but Carpenter, who claimed to have blacked out during the attack, ended up with a fourteen-year sentence.
During this time, his wife, who'd had to put up with his temper and sexual demands and who'd just given birth to their third child, divorced him. To psychiatrists who evaluated him, he gave a range of different stories about what had occurred, from amnesia to a lover's quarrel. He'd clearly learned to tell people what he thought they wanted to hear.
In 1969, Carpenter was freed after only nine years. He quickly got remarried, and in less then a year, he was back at it again (and the marriage failed). He tried to rape a woman by hitting her car to force her out of it. When she struggled against him, he stabbed her, but she managed to get back into her car and race toward help. Obviously, Carpenter was now looking for a way to rape but not return to prison, so he was prepared to eliminate witnesses. He continued to target women until he was arrested again in Modesto on February 3, 1970.
While awaiting his trial, Carpenter conspired with four other inmates at the Calaveras County jail to break out and escape. They didn't get very far and he was sentenced to seven years for kidnap and robbery (not for any sex offenses). He also received two more years for his parole violations. When he got out in May 1979, he was not listed as a sex offender, although he clearly was. By August, he had murdered Edda Kane.
Even while Carpenter continued his criminal activities, he found a way to pass as a normal, productive citizen. He took courses in computer printing at the California Trade School, graduating with a degree. Then he got a job as a typesetter instructor at an agency affiliated with the school. He took up hiking as a hobby, but not for the same reasons most people do. He simply liked the shelter afforded in the wilderness for grabbing young women to rape and kill without being seen. It remained for the courts to ensure he return to prison for the rest of his life.
The Final Victim
On June 16, 1981, in Castle Rock State Park, rock climbers came across a jaw bone. At the urging of acquaintances, they brought it in and the police sent it for analysis. It proved to be human, and with further work it was identified as the partial remains of a seventeen-year-old high school student, Anna K. Menjivar, missing since December 28 the previous year. Many people had suspected that Carpenter had something to do with her disappearance.
She had worked part-time at the bank where Carpenter was a client, and he often engaged in conversation with her. People were under the impression that she was the reason he came to the bank. But evidence against him was slim. Even the cause of death could not be established.
Yet other cases could be prosecuted, and perhaps that would become some sort of justice for young Anna. Carpenter was formally charged with the five Marin County killings (Anne Alderson, Diane O'Connell, Shauna May, Cynthia Moreland, and Richard Stowers), two rapes, and an attempted rape. The police had recovered the .38 that he'd given to a friend — a bank robber who wanted no part in protecting a killer and who suspected that Carpenter was setting him up — and they now had everything they needed to move forward with a strong case.
Given its inflammatory nature in the Santa Cruz and San Francisco communities, the venue was shifted three hundred miles away to Los Angeles.
The First Trial
Carpenter insisted he was innocent and continued to do so throughout two trials.
His first trial was for the murders of Heather Scaggs and Ellen Hansen, and the attempted murder of Steve Haertle. It started on October 11, 1983. The judge seated one jury to decide his guilt and a second one to decide the penalty in the event of a conviction. Along with the alternates, this made for a substantial body of people for the attorneys to address.
It took many weeks of voir dire before DA Art Danner could present his opening argument in May, which focused on eyewitnesses and ballistics evidence. Carpenter's gun had been linked to each of the murders, and Steve Haertle's testimony identifying Carpenter as the attacker who shot him and killed his girlfriend was persuasive. It was no surprise that after six weeks of testimony, the eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated for eight hours over the course of two and a half days to reach their verdict. On July 6, 1984, David Carpenter was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
"The balding, bespectacled defendant had no visible reaction," reported the Syracuse Post-Standard. He attorney shrugged it off, saying that Carpenter had expected to be convicted and had prepared for it. He also described his client to the press as a "mental mess," admitting that he was a killer but resisting the idea that he should face the death penalty for it: His crimes had been impulsive, not planned, and he'd been unable to control himself. Yet no amount of psychological testimony had convinced the jury that abusive parents were entirely responsible for this killer's development toward such cruelty.
The second jury found three special circumstances that warranted the death penalty: committing multiple murders, committing during a rape, and lying in wait. Carpenter was to be given the death sentence via execution in San Quentin's gas chamber.
But the court was not finished with him. He had a second trial coming right up for the Marin County killings — though it would be delayed for several years by legal wrangling. And this trial would have an unexpected and disheartening glitch.
The second trial opened in San Diego on January 5, 1988. Deputy DA John Posey had a huge job ahead of him in his first death-penalty case, with more than sixty witnesses, but he'd long prepared for the task. Carpenter's attorneys were public defenders Frank Cox and Steve Berlin. Robert Graysmith attended this proceeding and offers a first-hand account. Unlike the Los Angles trial, in which the defense had offered few witnesses, Carpenter's witness list this time numbered over thirty, and he himself would testify.
It took until May 10, in a trial that once again proved that Carpenter's gun was the one that shot the victims, and he was convicted of all five of those murders. He'd offered carefully constructed alibis, but the prosecutors proved that his documentation had been altered or that he'd been mistaken about some of his dates.
For seven days, Carpenter was on the stand. Although he appeared calm and prepared, reading from his calendar and collection of receipts, he stuttered from time to time as he described his acquaintances from prison and his various liaisons with women. He also detailed his activities during the time of each of the murders of which he was accused. Still, he also showed his anger and his slippery and glib nature.
It was no surprised that after only seven hours, another jury also recommended the death sentence for him, which the judge accepted.
However, a few months later, the jury forewoman, Barbara Durham, revealed something that could have made a difference. She told friends that she had been aware (or became aware during the trial) of Carpenter's convictions in Los Angeles in 1984 for the Santa Cruz murders. She had concealed this fact during voir dire (or during the trial). Judge Herbert Hoffman had to consider whether to call a mistrial and have Carpenter retried. Since he thought the evidence had been strong, it was a difficult decision.
On February 21, 1989, Judge Hoffman ruled that while he believed that Carpenter was certainly guilty of the crimes, since a member of the jury had unlawfully referred to his prior conviction during discussions, he had to order a new trial. He made no secret of the fact that he considered this a travesty of justice, especially because the trial had been costly.
In 1994, state prosecutors asked the California Supreme Court in San Francisco to overturn that decision, since the evidence for Carpenter's guilt was overwhelming. However, the Deputy State Public Defender insisted that the jury had been contaminated and the trial had been essentially biased and unfair.
On March 6, 1995, the court refused to give David Carpenter a new trial. Justice Armand Arabian stated that it's virtually impossible to keep secrets in such cases and he believed that the forewoman's knowledge had not unduly biased the jury. Thus, they overturned Judge Hoffman's decision — probably without too much disappointment for him.
In 1997, the state Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for the Scaggs and Hansen murders, and on November 29, 1999, they also upheld Carpenter's death penalty from his second trial. Six of the seven judges agreed that he'd had a fair trial for the five Marin County murders and had been sentenced properly. As of this writing, he remains on death row in San Quentin, awaiting appeals through the federal courts. At age 76, he is currently the oldest inmate there.