Police Arrest Man In Connection To 1978 Murder Of Teen Who Was Visiting Long-Lost Sister

Photo: San Francisco Police Department
Marissa Rolf Harvey and Mark Stanley Personette

A man has been arrested after forensic evidence linked him to a 43 year old cold case in San Francisco.

Mark Stanley Personette was arrested in connection with the sexual assault and murder of Marissa Rolf Harvey. She was 15 years old when she died in 1978.

43 years after Harvey’s death it seemed as though Harvey’s family would not ever see justice done for their daughter.

Harvey died while on a trip to California to be reconnected with a long-lost sister.

What happened to Mariss Rolf Harvey?

In 1978, Marissa Rolf Harvey was living in New York and had just made a life-changing discovery.

Harvey found out that she had a biological sister that she had never met before. Harvey was adopted at the age of three and was unaware of any family that she might have had outside of her adoptive family.

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Harvey was reportedly ecstatic to find out that she had a long-lost sister when she showed up at her house in New York on Christmas in 1977.

Harvey’s sister was an adult in her 30’s living in San Francisco and Harvey insisted on going to visit her. Harvey’s parents were worried for her, saying, “We told her sister to be careful with her.”

Despite their worries, Harvey’s parents felt that it wouldn’t be fair for them to tell her no and let her fly to San Francisco on her own to spend some time with her newly discovered sister.

Reportedly, the trip went well, with Harvey meeting up and spending the weekend with her sister. Before Harvey’s return trip, she asked her sister if she could horseback riding so her sister dropped her off at the stables.

That was the last time that anyone reported seeing Marissa Rolf Harvey alive.

The following day, Harvey’s body was discovered near the stables. She appeared to have been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled to death with a “cord-like device.”

Despite how quickly authorities managed to locate her body and the available evidence, police were unable to find any suspects. Soon all of the leads were exhausted and the case went cold.

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That was where the issue of Harvey’s justice remained for 43 years until recently when the case was unexpectedly reopened.

On December 15th, 2021, Mark Stanley Personette was arrested in connection with the death of Marissa Rolf Harvey in 1978.

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Police made use of as yet unspecified forensic investigative methods to reopen the case.

The investigation doesn’t just stop at the forensics or this case. In 1979, Personette was accused of offering a 16-year-old girl a ride, then assaulting and raping her, and was later indicted.

Personette may be connected to other, similar cases as well and police are asking other departments to reevaluate other cold cases that might be solvable with modern techniques.

After 43 long years, it seems like Harvey’s family might finally get justice for their daughter.

San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott had this to say of the remarkable case, “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.”

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.