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An elderly Colorado man has been arrested after he was identified as the killer of a 15-year-old girl who was murdered while visiting San Francisco more than four decades ago.
Mark Stanley Personette, 76, was taken into police custody in connection with the cold case slaying of Marissa Rolf Harvey, whose murder has baffled investigators for 43 years. He was arrested in Conifer, Colorado — which is outside Denver — on Thursday.
Harvey vanished on March 27, 1978 during a family trip to San Francisco, just after visiting Golden Gate Park. Her body was found in a bush the next day in nearby Sutro Heights Park. She’d been strangled and raped, the San Francisco Chronicle Herald reported.
The 15-year-old had traveled to San Francisco to visit her newfound biological sister,
As years passed and San Francisco’s homicide unit “exhausted every lead,” the case eventually went cold.
In October 2020, San Francisco police detectives re-opened their investigation into Harvey’s decades-old unsolved murder — and advances in forensic technology ultimately led detectives to Personette, police said.
On Dec. 9, a San Francisco superior judge signed a warrant for Personette’s arrest, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. Personette was later booked into a Jefferson County, Colorado detention facility, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. He’s being held without bond pending his likely extradition to California.
However, it’s unclear when Personette may be transferred back to California. He is contesting his extradition from Colorado, further court filings show.
“May be competency concerns,” a handwritten county court order notes about the 76-year-old’s current mental state following his recent court hearing.
Personette is scheduled to appear again in court in Jefferson County on Jan. 10, officials said. It’s unclear if he’s retained legal counsel.
Personette was previously indicted in 1980 on aggravated sexual assault charges related to the rape of a different 16-year-old girl, according to the Courier-News. Law enforcement suspects Personette could be involved in other unsolved murders around the country.
“In the wake of this homicide suspect’s arrest, the San Francisco Police Department is requesting that law enforcement agencies within the United States thoroughly review their sexual-assault-related cold-case homicides involving young women to identify any other incidents in which Personette may be a suspect,” the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement.
The case remains open and active, police said. A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department on Monday declined to comment on the case beyond their existing statement, referring all questions to prosecutors. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office also declined to comment further on the case on Monday.
Harvey was a pianist and an avid traveler who spent two summers bicycling through Europe prior to her death, her family said.
"She was very special, happy, she loved animals and flowers and plants,” her mother told the San Francisco Chronicle Herald in 1978. "Marissa was a very special, very different, little girl.”
“For more than four decades, Marissa Harvey’s family members have been relentless advocates to bring her killer to justice, and we hope this development in the case begins to bring a measure of healing and closure they’ve been too long denied,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement.
“To the families and friends of all victims awaiting justice for crimes committed in our city, we hope this case sends an unequivocal message that you are never forgotten by the San Francisco Police Department — and that our cold-case investigators continue their tireless work on your loved ones’ behalf,” he added.
Anyone with additional information related to Harvey’s 1978 murder is urged to contact San Francisco Police Department’s homicide unit at 415-553-9245.
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