April 02, 2022
Marissa Harvey was just 15 years old when she was found strangled to death in a San Francisco forest on March 29, 1978.
Marguerite Schultz of Port Washington, New York, who ran a nursery school in Manhasset, adopted Marissa when she was just three years old after seeing the child being passed from foster home to foster home repeatedly and wanted to give her a stable life.
Marissa was a student at St. Dominic's school in Oyster Bay, a private, Roman Catholic high school in New York. Schultz described her as: "a very special, very different little girl. She was special, happy, she loved animals and flowers and plants, she played piano. She was angelic.”
Several months before Marissa Harvey was found dead, her half-sister, Miriam Waldieff, showed up at the door of their family home in Port Washington and introduced herself, much to the excitement of Marissa who was elated to discover she had an older sister. Miriam, an art student and teacher at the San Francisco institute, wanted to connect with Marissa and had hired a tracing company who successfully tracked her down.
When Easter came around three months later, Marissa pleaded with her parents to let her travel to San Francisco and stay with Miriam over the holidays. She added that it was Miriam’s birthday that week and that it was a special occasion that she wanted to be part of.
Marguerite Schultz was hesitant but relented as she did not want to put a damper on Marissa’s excitement. Her husband, Howard Schultz, worked for an airline, and accompanied Marissa to the airport, putting her on the plane himself. Marissa had travelled before; she had been to Europe the previous summer on a bicycling tour with a colleague of Mrs. Schultz. Marissa was great at cycling and had covered more than two thousand miles during one trip.
On 11pm on Monday 27 March 1978, Marissa Harvey was reported missing when she failed to return home. The 15-year-old was last seen at around 1PM the previous day when she was dropped off at a riding academy in Golden State Park by Marshall Ingram, a friend and roommate of Waldieff who resided with her at 1925 Page Street, where Marissa had been staying since Friday.
The stables were closed that Monday, and none of the employees on site remembered seeing a young girl matching Marissa's description.
The following day on Tuesday 28 March 1978, 27-year-old hiker, Robert Truelove, was hiking off the beaten track in Sutro Heights park in the outer Richmond District, when he noticed two feet sticking out of the brush. On closer inspection he realised it was the body of a young girl and quickly reported it to police. Truelove was determined to have been in the vicinity of 48th Avenue and Anza Street when he happened upon the body.
When questioned, Truelove said after discovering the girl's body he ran to a nearby beach and informed his friend, 30-year-old Gary Kingma, that he had found a lifeless young girl in the glade. Both made their way to the site of discovery and after confirming she was indeed dead, contacted the police at around 7:30pm.
The girl's body was fully clothed, and she had been concealed beneath the brush. She had marks around her neck indicative of strangulation and initial findings found that there did not seem to be any evidence of sexual assault.
A later coroner’s report confirmed that the girl had indeed died as a result of strangulation and had been badly beaten and sexually assaulted.
Marissa was last sighted at the riding academy, around half a mile from Sutro Heights Park where her body was found, and investigators were unable to ascertain how she got there.
On March 30, 1978, police admitted in a public statement that they had no leads in the rape and murder of Marissa Harvey: "We don't have anything", said Inspector Jeff Brosch, who said he hoped the public may be of assistance in coming forward with information in her murder.
With no leads to go on, the case went cold for over four decades.
In the fall of 2020, the case was opened again and Mark Stanley Personette, 76, was booked for investigation of homicide in connection with the death of Marissa Harvey. Police stated they utilized advanced investigative methods employed by SFPD’s industry-leading Forensic Sciences Division to identify the suspect.
According to a statement put out by the San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco PD Homicide Department along with the Attorney's office, FBI and Jefferson County Sheriff's office conducted a joint operation in Denver resulting in Personette's arrest.
An arrest document from 1979 details that Personette resided in Basking Ridge, New Jersey at the time and was unemployed.
Chief of Police Bill Scott addressed the families of cold case victims in a statement saying:
“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. 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. We’re grateful to our law enforcement partners for working with us on this case, and we’re equally thankful to the many forensic scientists and other unsung heroes who helped to solve this case and to make SFPD’s Crime Laboratory among a small handful nationwide to be recognized for employing our profession’s most rigorous forensic standards.”
Media outlets published booking photos of Mark Stanley Personette over the years and police fear he may have more victims.
Personette is currently being held in a jail in Jefferson County, Colorado.
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