Investigation Discovery’s ‘Very Scary People’ chronicles the gruesome murders and rapes carried out by convicted American serial killer David Carpenter, between August 19, 1979, and May 2, 1981, in California. He is believed to have killed at least nine individuals using various methods, ranging from strangling and stabbing to shooting. It took the combined effort of various law enforcement agencies spanning over a couple of years before he was finally caught. If you’re interested in knowing about his victims, here’s what we know.
Who Were David Carpenter’s Victims?
Edda Kane worked as a bank executive with an athletic lifestyle. She regularly hiked the trails in a park at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The 44-year-old was hiking alone on August 19, 1979, and never returned home. Contacted by Edda’s concerned husband, the police sent out a search team, including dog handlers, assuming she had met with an accident. They found her car in the parking lot, but her body was not discovered until the following day.
According to reports, Edda was ambushed from behind, indicated by the bullet wound on the rear side of her skull. She was found face down, and her knee positions suggested she was forced to be subservient. The perpetrator might have even forced her to beg for her life. The killer stole Edda’s glasses, credit cards, and $10. The autopsy report concluded she had been shot execution-style with a .44-caliber gun. However, she was not raped, and her jewelry was not stolen. It was the first known killing in the area.
Barbara Schwartz, 23, was hiking with her dog on March 8, 1980, in the same park where Edda Kane was killed. Unlike the latter, the young Baker was repeatedly stabbed rather than shot, and the pathologist counted 12 separate wounds in her chest with a ten-inch knife. Some kids found the murder weapon — a boning knife crusted with blood — near the crime scene. The detectives also discovered a pair of bifocals by the victim, which turned out to be prison-issued. In addition, a witness to the incident had notified the rangers.
A sketch artist prepared a composite sketch from the witness report, and the FBI’s San Francisco-based field office aided the local police in scouring through the list of recently released convicts who matched the image. Yet, the investigation turned up no leads. The next victim was 26-year-old Anne Alderson, a former Peace Corps volunteer, watching the sunset at the park’s 5,000-seat amphitheater alone on October 15, 1980, at the end of a long Columbus Day weekend. The park’s caretaker recalled spotting her at the time.
How Many People Did David Carpenter Kill?
Anne had also been shot with a bullet from a .38 pistol, penetrating the right side of her head. However, unlike the former two victims, she had been raped, and her right earring was missing. Investigators noticed that the body had been propped, face up, against a rock. Like Edda, Anne’s body position revealed she might have been forced to kneel before being killed. Soon, the police found Shauna May’s body in Point Reyes National Seashore Park on November 28, 1980. She was supposed to meet her friends for a hiking trip, and they contacted the authorities when she failed to show up.
According to her autopsy, the 25-year-old had been trussed with picture frame wire, shot thrice in the head, and shoved into a shallow trench. The medical examiner further concluded she had been raped. Shockingly, the police found another young woman’s body beside Shauna’s corpse. It belonged to 22-year-old Diana O’Connell, who had been reported missing while hiking with friends. She had been raped, strangled with a wire, and shot once in the head. Both victims’ clothing was piled onto their knapsacks, and a pair of panties were stuffed in Diana’s mouth.
Witness reports stated hearing four shots in that area mid-afternoon, indicating the two women had been murdered simultaneously. The investigators hypothesized the killer had abducted Shauna intending to kill and rape her, and Diana had come along at the wrong time. Since she was a witness, the perpetrator eliminated her too. Unfortunately, the gruesome discoveries were far from over, with another batch of investigators stumbling upon two more bodies about half a mile away.
The victims were an engaged couple, Richard Stowers, 19, and Cynthia Moreland, 18, who had gone hiking together in mid-October 1980. The former worked in Coast Guard and had been considered AWOL after their families reported them missing on October 11. Richard and Cynthia’s autopsy reports concluded they had been killed a few days before Anne. Not just that, ballistics confirmed the same perpetrator had shot all of them dead. The police tried to have another composite sketch prepared based on witness reports, but concluding testimonials proved to be a daunting task.
The authorities also made a criminal profile of the perpetrator before he struck again for the penultimate time in March 1981. Ellen Marie Hansen and Stephen “Steve” Haertle, two undergraduates at the University of California at Davis, were hiking in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park on March 29, 1981. Steve later testified how they were ambushed by a man with a pistol, who then attempted to rape Ellen at gunpoint. When she refused, the assailant shot her point-blank twice in the head and once in the shoulder.
Steve was also shot, but the bullets, fortunately, burrowed through his neck. He survived the attack and managed to gather passers-by for help. The final victim was Heather Roxanne Scaggs, 20, who was reported missing by her boyfriend, Dan Pingle, on May 2, 1981. Luckily, she had left the address and the contact number of the person she was going out to meet. The person was David Joseph Carpenter, then 51, who lived with his aging parents at 36 Sussex Street in San Francisco. Eventually, the police linked David to the murders, and he was sentenced to death after being convicted of all charges. While all the other victims were confirmed, he is still considered a suspect in Edda Kane and Barbara Schwartz’s deaths.