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David Carpenter
Background information
Birth name: David Joseph Carpenter
Also known as: The Trailside Killer
Born: May 6, 1930 (1930-05-06) (age 79)
San Francisco, California
Conviction: Attempted Murder
Attempted Rape
Sentence: Death
Number of victims: 9+
Span of killings: 1960 – December 28, 1980
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

Born and raised in San Francisco, Carpenter was physically abused as a child by his alcoholic father and domineering mother. As a child, he suffered a severe stutter and a bed-wetting problem, and tortured animals. At 17, he was incarcerated for molesting two of his cousins.[3]

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


Carpenter committed his first documented 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 1979-1980, he raped and murdered five women and was suspected of killing at least two others. He was eventually arrested and found guilty of the murders, for which he was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. He remains on San Quentin's death row.[4]

In December 2009, San Fracisco 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.[5]


  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. ^ "The Trailside Killer of San Francisco"
  4. ^ David Carpenter; Serial Killers A-Z
  5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle


  • Schechter, Harold: The Serial Killer files (2007)

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