Nancy Bennallack Murder: How Did Richard John Davis Die?

Image Credit: Find A Grave

Investigation Discovery’s ‘On the Case With Paula Zahn: Follow the Blood’ chronicles how 28-year-old court reporter Nancy Bennallack was brutally murdered inside her apartment in Sacramento County, California, in October 1970. The case went cold for almost five decades before the authorities solved Sacramento’s oldest homicide case in late 2019.

How Did Nancy Bennallack Die?

Nancy Marie Bennallack was born to Brian Addison Bennallack and Elaine Laverne Kessler Rossie in Nevada in San Bernardino County, California, on June 13, 1942. According to reports, the 28-year-old Court Reporter lived alone in an upstairs apartment at Arden Way and Bell Avenue in Sacramento County. When Nancy did not show up for work on October 26, 1970, a colleague called her son to check up on her at her apartment. The friend’s son went to the apartment complex, knocked repeatedly on the door, and rang the bell to find no response.

Nancy Bennallack and Farris Salamy

The man then sought assistance from the apartment manager, and they unlocked the door with the help of a passkey. The two individuals gasped at the brutality when they entered the residence and found Nancy’s body lying in her own blood. She had been stabbed over 30 times and was nearly decapitated. She had sustained multiple defensive wounds on her hands and arms, indicating she fought for her life. The police immediately opened a probe into the homicide, and investigators swarmed the crime scene.

Who Killed Nancy Bennallack?

When the police arrived and began processing the crime scene, they located a blood trail starting on the balcony and continuing to the sidewalk below, around the apartment complex buildings ending at the parking lot. The investigators determined the suspect cut himself during the murder and possibly left the scene in a vehicle. They also learned that her fiancé — chief public defender Farris N. Salamy — was the last to see her alive. She had spent the evening with him leading up to the hours before her gruesome death.

Image Credit: KCRA

According to reports, the two were set to marry on November 28, 1970. At approximately 11:30 pm, Farris left Nancy’s apartment to return to his residence. He told detectives that when he left the Bell Street apartment, she was in bed, and the sliding glass door, which opened to the second-story balcony, was slightly ajar to allow the cat to go outside. The investigators operated on a theory that Nacy was asleep in her bed when the perpetrator attacked her between 11:30 pm on October 25 and the early morning hours of October 26.

According to a retired sergeant at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Micki Links, the suspect entered her apartment by climbing up to the second-story balcony and through the open slider. The man clambered over the balcony with tape on his fingers before breaking into her flat. The detectives hypothesized that Nancy might have woken up and fought bravely before succumbing to the frenzied attack. Given the circumstances around the murder and the evidence at the crime scene, the detectives were sure their perpetrator was a young man.

One of the investigators explained the killer had to be agile to climb from a fence onto a balcony at the rear of Nancy’s second-floor apartment before jumping down to flee. The detective added that the cuts on Nancy’s hands showed she grabbed the murder weapon while fighting her attacker, yet officers did not find it at her apartment. According to reports, the investigators initially believed the attacker must have driven away from the area after killing Nancy.

Despite a thorough investigation involving questioning almost 500 neighbors and residents in Nancy’s complex, the detectives could find no leads or suspects. The case turned cold for more than three decades. With the evolving forensic technology, the police developed a DNA profile in 2004 from the blood drops retrieved at the scene. But a search through the state and national CODIS databases found no match to any offender. The homicide investigation again was shelved for more than one and half decades.

Now, the case was again reopened 15 years later, with investigators from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office cold case team and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office beginning a forensic genetic genealogy investigation in November 2019. On July 21, 2022, the police identified the suspect as Richard John Davis, 27 years old at the time of the murder and living in the same apartment complex where Nancy was killed. Richard’s former roommate told the detectives that David continued living there until 1974 or 1975.

Richard John Davis Died from Alcoholism Complications in 1997

Detective Micky Links said, “We have a relative that was gracious enough to provide their DNA. And we were able to confirm that he is our suspect.” According to old police reports, Richard and his roommate had confirmed each other’s alibis in October 1970. Micky added there was no indication the investigators spotted a wound on Richard’s arms or hands during the 1970 interview. He had no violent prior arrests, though there was a reported DUI arrest. However, he died at the age of 54 from complications of alcoholism on November 2, 1997.

According to sources, the investigators were unsure about the motive, but Richard reportedly lived opposite the pool from Nancy’s apartment and had a direct view of her. They surmised he was perhaps attracted toward her, and she rebuffed his advancements, though it was only guesswork on their part. However, Micky stated, “But clearly, he intended to do what he did that day. He put masking tape on every finger to conceal his fingerprints. If he were alive, we would be talking about a premeditated murder.”

Micky also addressed Nancy’s family and said, “Since Richard Davis is deceased, sadly, there won’t be any form of legal justice, but Linda and Tom, I hope this brings you, Nancy, and your family some peace.” Nancy’s erstwhile fiancé, Farris N. Salamy, died of leukemia at 84 on February 2, 2014. Nancy’s Linda Cox thanked the officials for cracking the case, adding, “Truthfully, I was almost giving up ever solving Nancy’s case.”

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