Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trailside Killer of San Francisco

The Man Behind the Predator

David Carpenter
David Carpenter

By May 27, the Syracuse Herald-Journal noted that Marin County District Attorney Jerry Herman was going to file charges against Carpenter in five more of the murders, all linked via ballistics analysis to Carpenter's guns, and he held out hope that evidence would surface in at least another murder.  He was not going to file charges in the murders of Barbara Schwartz or Edda Kane, since evidence was lacking.  One of them had been stabbed with a knife on which there were no usable prints and the other killed with a different gun, which had not been found. Still, the office would continue to investigate.

Oddly enough, Lane and Gregg indicate that Carpenter had been a suspect for a time in the Zodiac killings, but his handwriting and fingerprints had cleared him.  A few people recall him at one point claiming to be the Zodiac.

Whatever the case, his background was being thoroughly scrutinized.  Born on May 6, 1930, in San Francisco, Carpenter had been raised by strict and aggressive parents.  His alcoholic father beat him or neglected him, while his near-blind mother was described as domineering.  By the time he was seven, he was stuttering so badly he had a difficult time in any social situation.  He was often ridiculed, which made him painfully reclusive.  He received no therapy but was instead forced to participate in extracurricular activities, such as ballet and piano.  He took out his frustrations on animals and also wet the bed (two of the three indicators, as Douglas pointed out).  As he grew into adolescence, he looked for opportunities to express his developing sex drive and by the time he was seventeen, David had been arrested for molesting two young children, his cousins.  He served a year and apparently learned nothing from the California Youth Authority, because once released, he became more predatory.  Frasier states that he continued offending until he got married in 1955.

Carpenter worked at various occupations, including as a ship's purser, a salesman, and a printer.  He apparently had a demanding sex drive that he tried keeping under control by subjecting his wife to his constant need.  They had three children together, but Carpenter could not continue to control himself.  In addition to his violent rages, he also prowled around, looking for other women.  Finally, his drive was so desperate, he resorted to outright violence.


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