Investigation Discovery’s ‘Very Scary People’ follows the tale of American serial killer David Carpenter, who killed at least nine victims in California between August 19, 1979, and May 2, 1981. Initially thought to be the infamous Zodiac killer and later ruled out, he earned the moniker ‘The Trailside Killer’ due to his choice of killing innocent hikers. So, who is David, and where is he now? Let’s find out.
Who is David Carpenter?
David Joseph Carpenter was born to strict and allegedly abusive parents in San Francisco, California, on May 6, 1930. According to the show, his negligent, alcoholic father abused him, and his near-blind mother was described as authoritarian. A complicated childhood manifested a stuttering problem when David was seven, further alienating him from all social situations.
David was often ridiculed for his appearance and stutter and was a recluse for most of his childhood. Yet, he never received therapy or counseling sessions and was forced to participate in extracurricular activities, including ballet and piano lessons. As a result, an extensive amount of frustration manifested within, and David took it out animals and wet the bed — two characteristics that the FBI criminal profiler would mention in his report while solving the multiple homicides.
With most of his emotions bundled inside, David had an extensive sex drive by the time he grew into adolescence. This resulted in his molesting two young children — his cousins — when he was 13. After serving a year at the California Youth Authority, David’s predatory behavior allegedly continued until he was married in 1955. He worked various occupations, from a salesman to a ship’s purser, and had three children with his first wife. However, his spouse was not enough to fulfill his constant need, and he resorted to outright violence.
In 1960, David befriended Lois Rinna, the mother of ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ actress Lisa Rinna. She recalled how she knew him and his family personally, having met his wife and visiting their home on several occasions. Having a trusting nature, Lois did not object when David offered her a ride and drove to a wooded area of the Presidio. While narrating the traumatic episode, she recalled, “He’s straddling me, and he had a hammer in one hand, a knife in the other.”
Lisa added, “He tried to rape her. He tried to kill her. Luckily, a military policeman had seen them drive down this deserted road, and he knew no one was supposed to be down there, so he followed them down. My mom was saved that day by that military policeman.” David was arrested and sentenced to 14 years, while his former wife gave birth to their third child. She divorced him as he went through multiple psychiatric evaluations in jail. Regardless, David was freed after serving nine years in 1969.
Where is David Carpenter Now?
Once out of prison, David quickly remarried, but his second marriage failed when he was accused of stabbing and attempting to abduct one woman. Luckily, the victim managed to flee the scene in her car, and he grew more careful. David was finally arrested in Modesto, California, on February 3, 1970. While awaiting trial, he tried to break out and escape from the Calaveras County jail with four other inmates. Recaptured by the guards, he was sentenced to seven years for kidnap and robbery (not for any sex offenses).
David also received two more years for his parole violations. Although he was a regular sex offender, he was not listed as one after being released in May 1979. By August, David had allegedly murdered Edda Kane. As he engaged in his murder streak over the following couple of years, he took courses in computer printing at the California Trade School, graduating with a degree. David eventually found a job as a typesetter instructor at an agency affiliated with the school. According to the show, he took up hiking as a hobby because the wilderness offered a shelter for him to abduct young women, sexually assault, and murder them.
From 1979 to 1981, David raped and murdered five women in Santa Cruz County and Marin County. He was eventually arrested when one of the survivors provided the authorities with his description. On top of it, the boyfriend of the last victim supplied the police with David’s address and contact number. The FBI and local authorities set up a surveillance van outside the latter’s house in San Francisco, where he lived with his aging parents. Several witnesses picked David from a line-up, despite him growing a beard to conceal his identity. They even identified his red Fiat with a bent tailpipe seen in the vicinity during the murders and rapes he committed.
David Carpenter was formally charged with the five Marin County killings (Anne Alderson, Diane O’Connell, Shauna May, Cynthia Moreland, Richard Stowers), two rapes, and attempted rape. The police recovered the .38 that he’d given to a friend — a bank robber who did not want to protect a killer. With enough evidence to build a strong case, David’s first trial began in Los Angeles on October 11, 1983. He was tried for the murders of Heather Scaggs and Ellen Hansen and the attempted murder of Steve Haertle. David was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder on July 6, 1984.
After finding three special circumstances, David was given the death sentence via execution in San Quentin’s gas chamber. On May 10, 1988, a San Diego jury convicted him on five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Richard Stowers, Cynthia Moreland, Shauna May, Diane O’Connell, and Anne Alderson. In addition, David was found guilty of raping two women and attempting to rape a third. Though his conviction was overturned due to a legal glitch on February 21, 1989, it was reinstated on March 6, 1995. The 92-year-old currently remains on death row at the San Quentin State Prison. However, David remains a suspect in the murders of Edda Kane and Barbara Schwartz.
Read More: Read More: Who Were David Carpenter’s Victims? How Many People Did He Kill?