David Carpenter

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David Carpenter
David Joseph Carpenter

(1930-05-06) May 6, 1930 (age 89)
Other namesThe Trailside Killer
Conviction(s)Attempted murder, attempted rape, kidnapping, murder, rape, robbery
Criminal penaltyDeath
Span of crimes
August 19, 1979–May 2, 1981
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended
May 14, 1981
Imprisoned atSan Quentin State Prison

David Joseph Carpenter (born May 6, 1930), a.k.a. the Trailside Killer,[1] is an American serial killer known for stalking and murdering several people on hiking trails in state parks near San Francisco, California.[2] Carpenter killed at least ten people, with two attempted victims, Steven Haertle and Lois Rinna, surviving. He used a .38 caliber handgun in all but one of the killings; a .44 caliber handgun was used in the killing of Edda Kane on Mount Tamalpais.

Early life[edit]

David Carpenter, a native of San Francisco, was physically abused as a child by his alcoholic father and domineering mother. As a boy, he had a severe stutter, a persistent bed-wetting problem, and exhibited cruelty to animals. At age 13, Carpenter was incarcerated for molesting two of his cousins.[3] He married in 1955, in a union that produced three children.[4]


Carpenter first attempted murder in 1960, for which he spent seven years in prison. This was committed against Lois Rinna, mother of celebrity Lisa Rinna.[5] In 1970, he was arrested for kidnapping and spent a further seven years behind bars. After his release, he became a suspect in the notorious Zodiac murders, although he was eventually cleared.[6]

From 1979–1981, Carpenter raped and murdered five women in Santa Cruz and Marin counties. On May 10, 1988, a San Diego jury convicted him on five counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Richard Stowers, Cynthia Moreland, Shauna May, Diane O'Connell and Anne Alderson. Carpenter also was found guilty of raping two of the women and attempting to rape a third.[7] He was sentenced to die in the gas chamber, and remains on San Quentin's death row.[8]

Following his conviction for the Marin County murders, Carpenter was tried, and subsequently convicted, by a Santa Cruz jury for the murders of two other women, Ellen Hansen and Heather Scaggs.[9] The same jury also found Carpenter guilty of the attempted murder of Hansen's hiking companion Steven Haertle, the attempted rape of Hansen, and the rape of Scaggs.[9] Hansen, who was a University of California-Davis student, has a memorial scholarship created in honor of her courage during the attack, which allowed Haertle to escape alive.[10] In 1995, the Santa Cruz convictions were overturned due to juror misconduct. The California Supreme Court later reinstated the Santa Cruz convictions.[11]

In December 2009, San Francisco police reexamined evidence from the October 21, 1979, murder of Mary Frances Bennett, who was jogging at Lands End 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, police confirmed the match with a recently obtained sample from Carpenter.[12]

Carpenter is still a suspect in the murders of Edda Kane and Barbara Schwartz.[13]

Victims Status
Richard Stowers, 19 Convicted
Cynthia Moreland, 18 Convicted
Shauna May, 25 Convicted
Diane O'Connell, 22 Convicted
Anne Alderson, 26 Convicted
Ellen Marie Hansen, 20 Overturned
Heather Scaggs, 20 Overturned
Edda Kane, 44 Suspected
Barbara Schwartz, 23 Suspected
Mary Frances Bennett, 23 Confirmed

Popular culture[edit]

The Trailside killings provide the context for Joyce Maynard's 2013 novel After Her.

The mother of actress Lisa Rinna, Lois, revealed that she was one of the first victims of Carpenter. [14]


  1. ^ Schechter, p. 102.
  2. ^ Clifford L. Linedecker (1997). Smooth Operator: The True Story of Seductive Serial Killer Glen Rogers. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. pp. intr. at xi. ISBN 0-312-96400-5.
  3. ^ Ramsland, Katherine. "The Trailside Killer of San Francisco: The Man Behind the Predator". TruTV Crime Library. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  4. ^ "David Carpenter | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers". murderpedia.org. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  5. ^ https://www.eonline.com/shows/e_news/videos/287814/lisa-rinna-s-mother-was-attacked-by-trailside-serial-killer
  6. ^ "David Carpenter | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers". murderpedia.org. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  7. ^ "People v. Carpenter (1999)". justia.com.
  8. ^ "David Carpenter". Serial Killers A-Z. Archived from the original on October 26, 2009.
  9. ^ a b http://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/people-v-carpenter-30965
  10. ^ https://wrrc.ucdavis.edu/programs/academic/scholarships
  11. ^ http://scocal.stanford.edu/opinion/re-carpenter-31226
  12. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (February 24, 2010). "DNA ties Trailside Killer to '79 S.F. slaying". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ "Boca Raton News - Google News Archive Search". google.com. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  14. ^ Maynard, Joyce (14 Aug 2013). "Echoes of the Savage and Sublime on Mount Tamalpais". The New York Times.


Further reading[edit]