A Man Accused of Brutal Sex Crime in Montgomery 42 Years Ago Arrested for Cold Case Homicide
By Barbara A. Preston | January 6, 2022
A man arrested and charged with the violent rape of a teenage girl in Montgomery Township in 1979 now faces charges in a 43-year-old cold homicide case. San Francisco police arrested Mark Stanley Personette on December 16 in connection with the 1978 murder of a 15-year-old girl, whose body was found near Golden Gate Park. Personette is now 76-year-old.
The Montgomery Township connection occurred on Monday, October 22, 1979 when a teenage girl was hitch hiking on Nassau Street near Route 206 North in Princeton. The girl allegedly accepted a ride from Personette, and she ended up being brutally raped and beaten in a wooded area off Dutchtown-Zion Road in Montgomery around 12 noon on the same day — according to a newspaper archive of the story.
San Francisco police are asking Montgomery and Hopewell law enforcement partners to review possible Personette-related cold cases.
In the wake of this homicide suspect’s arrest, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is requesting that law enforcement agencies in Montgomery and Hopewell township thoroughly review their sexual-assault-related cold-case homicides involving young women to identify any other incidents in which Personette may be a suspect.
SFPD released several booking photos of Personette, which have been taken over several decades. One mug shot of Personette was taken on November 5, 1979 by the Hopewell Township Police.
Police reports for Personette from Hopewell Township were not available from Hopewell police at the posting of this article.
The Montgomery News spoke to Montgomery Police Lt. Tom Frascella, who confirmed that San Francisco police had reached out. Anybody with information on Personette may call him at 908.533.9332.
Montgomery police had arrested Personette, who was 34 at the time and a resident of Basking Ridge, on October 29, 1979. Police charged Personette with aggravated sexual assault and false imprisonment after the victim had told detectives the car that picked her up had an unusual lock and bright red finish.
"We found only one carmaker used that lock and paint, and only 26 of the cars were sold here in New Jersey," former Chief of Police Michael P. Szoke said in an archived newspaper article from 1979. "We got a call from a gas station [on the corner of Routes 518 and 206] that a car [Dodge Colt] matching the description had pulled in. The guy met our composite, and the car matched the partial plate number we had. And we moved in."
Personette was acquitted of the crime in Somerset County Court. The circumstances were not available at press time.
The Murder in San Francisco
In March 1978, 15-year-old Marissa Rolf Harvey traveled from New York City to visit her family in San Francisco. She visited Golden Gate Park on March 27, 1978, but never returned. The following day, Marissa’s body was located not far from Golden Gate Park, in Sutro Heights Park, according to a SFPD press release. A coroner told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time that she had been "badly beaten and strangled with a cord-like device."
In October 2020, the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide cold-case unit re-opened the 1978 murder investigation of Marissa Rolf Harvey, using advanced investigative methods employed by SFPD’s industry-leading Forensic Sciences Division. [DNA evidence.]
On December 16, members of the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide detail, San Francisco District Attorney’s office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Jefferson County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office conducted a joint operation in Conifer, Colorado. The joint operation successfully executed a homicide warrant for Personette’s arrest. He remains at the jail in Jefferson County, Colorado, as a fugitive of justice.
“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,” said San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott.
“To the families and friends of all victims awaiting justice for crimes committed we hope this case sends an unequivocal message that you are never forgotten — and that our cold-case investigators continue their tireless work on your loved ones’ behalf. We’re grateful to our law enforcement partners for working with us on this case, and we’re equally thankful to the many forensic scientists and other unsung heroes who helped to solve this case and to make SFPD’s Crime Laboratory among a small handful nationwide to be recognized for employing our profession’s most rigorous forensic standards.”
Police Fear There May Be More Victims
While an arrest has been made, this remains an open and ongoing investigation by SFPD’s homicide cold-case unit. Anyone with information or leads, in this case, is asked to call Sergeant Alan Levy, Star #4216, of the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide detail at +1 (415) 553- 9245 or by email at email@example.com.