Teen visiting sister was killed 43 years ago in California. Police just made an arrest

In 1978, 15-year-old Marissa Rolf Harvey traveled from New York to San Francisco to visit her sister. She was murdered there.

In 1978, 15-year-old Marissa Rolf Harvey traveled from New York to San Francisco to visit her sister. She was murdered there.

San Francisco Police Department

Police in San Francisco have arrested a suspect in the 1978 killing of 15-year-old Marissa Rolf Harvey.

A visitor in her 30s came to Harvey’s home in Port Washington, New York, on Christmas 1977, saying she was the biological sister of Harvey, who had been adopted at 3 years old, SFGATE reported.

Harvey pleaded with her parents to let her visit her sister in San Francisco. Her mother told Newsday in 1978 that she and her husband didn’t want Harvey to go, but felt it would be unfair to say no, SFGATE reported.

“We told her sister to be careful with her,” she told the outlet.

Harvey flew solo from New York to San Francisco in March 1978, the San Francisco Police Department said in a news release.

She spent the weekend with her sister and asked her if she could go horseback riding before going home. Her sister dropped her off at the stables and never saw her alive again, SFGATE reported.

Harvey’s body was found the next day in Sutro Heights Park, near Golden Gate Park, where the stables were, police said.

At the time, coroner Boyd Stephen said that she was found “badly beaten and strangled with a cord-like device,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Harvey had also been sexually assaulted, SFGATE reported.

Police said they investigated and soon exhausted all leads , leaving the case unsolved for decades..

But police reopened the investigation into Harvey’s death in October 2020. The department’s forensic sciences division used “advanced investigative methods,” though police did not specify what those methods were.

On Dec. 15, police said they arrested Mark Stanley Personette in Conifer, Colorado, in connection with Harvey’s killing.

Personette, now 76, is being held without bail on a charge of being a fugitive of justice, jail records show.

Police also released Personette’s mugshot and asked other law enforcement agencies around the country to review past cold cases involving sexual assault, saying they believe he may be connected to other cases.

One of the booking photos obtained by McClatchy News was from Personette’s 1979 arrest in New Jersey.

According to New Jersey newspapers at the time, Personette was accused of asking a 16-year-old girl if she wanted a ride in his car, then assaulting and raping her. He was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault, and was indicted in 1980, SFGATE reported.

Even though an arrest has been made, the investigation into Harvey’s killing is still ongoing, police 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,” San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott said in the news release.


Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.


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