David Carpenter

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For other people named David Carpenter, see David Carpenter (disambiguation).
David Carpenter
Born (1930-05-06) May 6, 1930 (age 85)
San Francisco, California
Other names The Trailside Killer
Criminal penalty Death
Conviction(s) Attempted murder, attempted rape, kidnapping, murder, rape, robbery
Victims 5–9+
Span of killings
August 19, 1979–May 2, 1981
Country USA
State(s) California
Date apprehended
May 14, 1981

David Joseph Carpenter (born May 6, 1930), aka the Trailside Killer,[1] is an American serial killer known for stalking and murdering women on hiking trails near San Francisco, California.[2]

Early life[edit]

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 he tortured animals. At 13 he was incarcerated for molesting two of his cousins.[3]

He married in 1955, a union that produced three children.


Carpenter 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 1979–1981, he raped and murdered five women and was suspected of killing at least two others, one of whom was Ellen Hansen, a University of California, Davis, student killed while hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains. A memorial scholarship has since been created in honor of her courage during the attack, which allowed her hiking companion to escape alive.

On May 10, 1988, a San Diego jury convicted Carpenter of first degree murder in the slayings of Richard Stowers, Cynthia Moreland, Shana May, Diana O'Connell and Anne Alderson. Carpenter was also pronounced guilty of raping two of the women and attempting to rape a third.[4] He was sentenced to die in the gas chamber, and remains on San Quentin's death row.[5]

In December 2009, San Francisco 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.[6]

Carpenter is still a suspect in the murders of Edna Kane, Barbara Schwartz and Heather Scaggs.[7]

Popular culture[edit]

The Trailside killings provide the context for Joyce Maynard's 2013 novel After Her.[8]


  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 J. Carpenter: The Trailside Killer". Frances Farmer's Revenge. 
  5. ^ "David Carpenter". Serial Killers A-Z. 
  6. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (February 24, 2010). "DNA ties Trailside Killer to '79 S.F. slaying". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  7. ^ "Boca Raton News - Google News Archive Search". google.com. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Maynard, Joyce (14 Aug 2013). "Echoes of the Savage and Sublime on Mount Tamalpais". The New York Times. 


Further reading[edit]