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Crime News Cold Cases

Former Navy Sailor Gets 7 Years To Life For Dancer’s Murder In 1969 Cold Case

Prosecutors said John Sipos kicked in the door of Mary Scott's San Diego apartment before breaking her jaw, raping her and ultimately strangling her to death. 

By Jax Miller
Empty Courtroom Stock Photo

A Pennsylvania man has been sentenced for the violent 1969 murder of a dancer found dead in her San Diego home.

John Sipos, 76, will serve seven years to life in prison for the murder of Mary Scott, 23, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The sentence was adjusted to fit the punishment prescribed back in 1969 when Scott was raped, beaten, and strangled to death in her City Heights apartment.

Friday’s hearing at the San Diego Superior Court came one month after a jury found Sipos guilty of first-degree murder, as previously reported. Sipos was not charged with rape due to the statute of limitations running out decades ago.

“The justice [Scott] deserved was delayed for so long,” said Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg, according to the Tribune. “It was so gratifying to hold the offender accountable and deliver a measure of justice to her family.”

Scott’s daughter, Donna Wyble, was also present for sentencing, according to NBC San Diego, speaking on behalf of Scott’s other daughter, who died in a car accident years ago.

“I want John Sipos to know he has taken everything from my sister and I,” said Wyble.

On Nov. 20, 1969, Mary Scott hadn’t arrived for her shift at the Star & Garter Club, where she worked as a go-go dancer blocks from her apartment. A coworker visited her first-floor residence to find Scott’s furniture in disarray, and the chain locks broken from the door.

Prosecutors later alleged Sipos - a former Navy sailor who lived in San Diego at the time of the murder - kicked down the door, broke the victim’s jaw, and raped her before finally strangling her to death.

Sipos was arrested on Oct. 24, 2020, at his Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, home after the victim’s sister, Rosalie Sanz, pushed authorities to use genetic genealogy in the case. At the time of the arrest, Sipos had been retired for more than 20 years following a career in hospital administration and security, his attorney said.

“And that is the thing that makes me most upset,” Sanz told the New York Times. “When I learned that he is just living free and happy, it is upsetting to me that he had that normal life all these years. She had so much life ahead of her, and that just got stolen.

Sipos waived extradition from Lehigh County back to California, claiming he had no memory of the murder.

During March’s trial, Sipos’s attorney, Brooke LaFrance, argued that the case was hindered because several key witnesses who could have taken the stand passed away during the 53 years since the murder, according to NBC San Diego. She also asserted DNA evidence pointed to another suspect.

That person was excluded from the crime scene, prosecutors said.

“[Sipos] has been able to avoid accountability for his crime,” the prosecutor said at Friday’s hearing. “It’s been a long time coming.”

It was never revealed if Sipos and Scott knew one another, according to the Tribune.

“In a case this old, there will always be missing pieces and unanswered questions,” said Lindberg, who runs the office’s cold case unit.

Oxygen.com couldn’t reach Brooke LaFrance for comment after sentencing, but the defense attorney did say “an appeal will be filed” following Sipos’ conviction.

Sipos’ trial holds the longest time span between crime and conviction, according to the Tribune.

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