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76-Year-Old Man Is Charged With 1978 Killing of Queens Girl

In March 1978, a 15-year-old girl from Queens traveled to San Francisco for Easter to visit her half sister. Days after her arrival, her body was found near Golden Gate Park. She had been strangled.

The San Francisco Police Department investigated the killing, but eventually the case went cold. On Thursday, 43 years after the shocking crime and a little more than a year since the case was reopened, San Francisco officers traveled to Colorado to arrest Mark Stanley Personette, 76, in the killing of the girl, Marissa Rolf Harvey.

Mr. Personette was charged with one count of homicide on Thursday after a joint operation in the suburbs of Denver conducted by the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide detail, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Jefferson County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office, the Police Department announced in a statement on Sunday.

Mr. Personette was booked into the Jefferson County Jail and is scheduled to appear in a Jefferson County court on Jan. 10. It was unclear on Monday if Mr. Personette had a lawyer.

“For more than four decades, Marissa Harvey’s family members have been relentless advocates to bring her killer to justice,” the San Francisco police chief, Bill Scott, said in the statement. “We hope this development in the case begins to bring a measure of healing and closure they’ve been too long denied.”

Attempts to reach surviving relatives, including the girl’s mother and an aunt, were unsuccessful on Monday night.

On March 27, 1978, Marissa was driven to Golden Gate Park by a friend of her sister’s for an afternoon of horseback riding, according to a New York Times article from that year. Her body was found the next day near Sutro Heights Park, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

The rental stables were reported to be closed the day Marissa left to go horseback riding, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The newspaper quoted Boyd Stephen, a coroner, who in 1978 said the girl was found “badly beaten and strangled with a cordlike device.”

The girl was identified by her half sister, Miriam Wadeiff, who was then a graduate student and teacher at the San Francisco Institute. The girl’s stepmother said Marissa was a student at St. Dominic’s School in Oyster Bay, on Long Island.

The Police Department said in a statement on Sunday that its homicide detail “led an investigation that employed the best available technology at the time and exhausted every lead.”

“Despite their best efforts,” the department added, “the investigation went cold.”

In October 2020, the department’s cold-case unit reopened the murder investigation, using “advanced investigative methods.” The department on Monday did not respond to a request for comment seeking details about what led investigators to Mr. Personette.

“To the families and friends of all victims awaiting justice for crimes committed in our city,” Chief Scott said in the statement, “we hope this case sends an unequivocal message that you are never forgotten by the San Francisco Police Department — and that our cold-case investigators continue their tireless work on your loved ones’ behalf.”

After Mr. Personette’s arrest, the department asked other law enforcement agencies across the country to review their cold-case homicides involving sexual assaults of young women to see if there were other cases in which Mr. Personette might be a suspect.

In its statement, the department shared previous booking photos of Mr. Personette, including one in October 1979 in Somerville, N.J.; another in Bernards Township, N.J., for an assault arrest; and one in November 1979 in Hopewell Township, N.J.

Previous police reports for Mr. Personette were not immediately available on Monday night.

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