The alleged killer of a woman who was beaten to death, strangled and left for dead more than 40 years ago was finally brought to justice this week, prosecutors announced.
According to a local district attorney’s office, the cold case busted from a 1979 murder in California was swapped for a rape kit from an unrelated crime, leading suspicion to Harold Carpenter, who had recently been arrested.
Murder victim Patricia Carnahan was murdered at the South Lake Tahoe campground in September 1979, but she was not identified at the time and, sadly, was buried under a grave marker marked Was called “unknown woman”. the El Dorado District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said evidence collected at the Tahoe crime scene, including a rape kit, provided a DNA sample.
The murder investigation was revived in 2015 by the District Attorney’s Cold Case Homicide Unit after the body was exhumed and detectives placed pictures of the victim’s jewelry in a newspaper.
The family came forward to identify the pendant worn by Carnahan, and the remains were given to loved ones for proper burial.
While the victim was named, the suspect was still up in the air.
Prosecutors then said officials in Washington recently tested a rape kit from a 1994 case as part of an effort to clear a backlog of rape kits and added the results to a national database.
The district attorney’s office said DNA from the Washington victim matched with DNA evidence collected from Carnahan’s death, leading to Carpenter.
The 63-year-old was arrested and is currently in Spokane County Jail on a murder warrant on a fugitive charge ahead of his expected extradition to California.
“I am proud to say that our Cold Case Unit is one of the most successful of its kind in the United States. “Sadly, Ms. Carnahan was buried in a potter’s field under the headstone of an ‘unknown woman,'” El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pearson said in a statement. “Due to the tireless dedication of our investigators, he was identified and returned to his family. Now his killer will finally be held accountable due to the multi-state cooperation by multiple agencies.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement that the cold case arrest illustrates the need to test every sexual assault kit and put their DNA profiles into a federal database.
“Every unused kit can be a potential break in a cold case. Hard work and cross-state collaboration made this case a success,” he said. “I am grateful for the hard work from law enforcement in pursuing justice in this case Am.”
Officials said the Washington rape case will not proceed because the statute of limitations has expired and the victim is now dead.