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Man identified through DNA charged with murder 44 years after teen girl's death

Tracing family trees to catch killers
Tracing family trees to catch killers 01:56

A man arrested in Colorado on suspicion of killing a teenage girl in San Francisco more than four decades ago has been charged with murder in her death, prosecutors said. Mark Stanley Personette, 76, was arrested in suburban Denver in December following a joint operation by San Francisco police, the FBI and the Jefferson County Sheriff's office. 

Marissa Rolf Harvey, 15, was slain in 1978 in San Francisco.  Family Photo via SFPD

He was booked for investigation of homicide in connection with the 1978 death of 15-year-old Marissa Harvey.

Personnette was arraigned in a San Francisco court Thursday. His attorney, Adam Gasner, did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The case sat cold for 43 years until a DNA hit in a genealogy database linked DNA taken from the crime scene to Personette, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement.

"We will work to ensure that Mr. Personnette is held accountable for the brutal and heinous acts that took Marissa's life and to bring closure to her family, which has never stopped advocating for justice," Boudin said.

Harvey, of New York, was visiting her sister in San Francisco when she didn't return from a day trip to Golden Gate Park, where she planned to do some horse riding. Her body was found a day later in nearby Sutro Heights Park.

Mark Stanley Personette, 76, was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado on Dec. 16, 2021 in connection with the March 1978 slaying of Marissa Rolf Harvey. San Francisco Police Department

The San Francisco Police Department said after Personette's arrest that investigators used the best available technology at the time and exhausted every lead, but the case went cold. In October 2020, they reopened the investigation and determined Personette to be a suspect using "advanced investigative methods."

The case was solved after investigators used a third-party DNA database and found genetic information from a relative, which led to Mr. Personnette's identification and arrest, Boudin said.

"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," Police Chief Bill Scott said after the arrest.

Authorities urged law enforcement agencies nationwide to review their unsolved sexual assault-related homicides involving young women to determine if there is a connection to Personette, who was previously arrested several times, including on charges of assault in 1979 in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

San Francisco police released several booking photos of Personette over the years.

Old Murder Arrest
This Nov. 5, 1979, image provided by the San Francisco Police Department shows the Hopewell Township, N.J., Police Department booking photos of Mark Stanley Personette.  / AP

Anyone with information or leads is asked to call Sgt. Alan Levy of the San Francisco police department's homicide detail at (415) 553-9245 or by email at

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