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An elderly Colorado man has been formally charged with the 1978 murder of a 15-year-old girl who was killed on a family trip to San Francisco.
Mark Stanley Personette, 76, was arraigned in a San Francisco court Thursday on a murder charge for the death of Marissa Rolf Harvey some 43 years ago, the Associated Press reports. His lawyer, Adam Gasner, told Oxygen.com that he pleaded not guilty.
The arraignment came more than a month after he was arrested in Conifer, Colorado — southwest of Denver — a few days before Christmas, according to a December press release from the San Francisco Police Department.
Harvey was found strangled and raped in Sutro Heights Park one day after vanishing in March of 1978 during a family trip to San Francisco from New York. San Francisco police detectives re-opened their investigation into Harvey’s decades-old unsolved murder in 2020 and, they said, eventually used genetic genealogy to allegedly connect Personette to DNA found at the crime scene.
A San Francisco superior judge signed a warrant for Personette’s arrest on Dec. 9, according to court documents previously obtained by Oxygen.com.
“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 stated in December’s press release.
His office has encouraged other law enforcement agencies across the country to examine this case to look for any familiarities to their own unsolved cases.
"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," they noted in their press release.
Personette was previously indicted in 1980 on aggravated sexual assault charges related to the rape of a 16-year-old girl, according to the Courier-News.
Personette’s attorney Adam Gasner told Oxygen.com in a statement that they expect to put on a robust defense.
"Mr. Personette has entered a not guilty plea to the charges," he wrote. "This is an extremely old case which is going to require a detailed and in depth defense investigation."
"As of right now it’s unclear what evidence from 1978 still exists and what cannot be located any longer," he added. "The defense is asking anyone with information about this matter to contact my office at adam (at) gasnerlaw.com."
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