Cold case murder of Nancy Bennallack solved using DNA technology that found the Golden State Killer

More than 50 years after Nancy Bennallack was brutally stabbed and nearly decapitated in a frantic attack in her bedroom, the identity of her killer has finally been revealed, closing Sacramento County’s oldest case of the common cold.

“When we have crimes like this, we never forget that,” Sacramento Undersheriff Jim Barnes said during a Wednesday news conference, describing the announcement as a “historic day.”

The case has been picked up numerous times over the years but eluded detectives until the DNA technology that helped solve the Golden State Killer’s case helped locate a suspect. Since the Golden State Killer breakthrough in 2018, more than 150 cases have been solved thanks to DNA technology. “We wouldn’t be here today without this tool,” said Anne Marie Schubert, District Attorney for Sacramento County.

Bennallack, a 28-year-old court clerk, was found brutally stabbed to death in her apartment by her friend and housing manager after failing to show up for work on October 26, 1970.

According to a retired Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Micki Links, Bennallack was asleep in her bed when the suspect entered her apartment by climbing sometime between 11:30 p.m. on October 25 and the early hours of October 26 to Second floor balcony and through the open slider. The man climbed the balcony with tape on his fingers before breaking into Bennallack’s apartment.

The man stabbed Bennallack more than 30 times, nearly decapitating her. She sustained multiple defensive wounds to her hands and arms, suggesting she was fighting for her life.

Hours before her death, Bennallack was spending the evening with her fiancé, Chief Public Defender Farris Salamy. The two wanted to get married in just a few weeks. At around 11:30pm, Salamy left Bennallack’s home to return to his own home. He told detectives at the time that when Bennallack left the Bell Street apartment, he was lying in bed with the sliding glass door, which opened onto the second-story balcony, ajar to allow the cat to go outside.

After the murder, investigators found a trail of blood that began on the balcony, continued to the sidewalk under and around the apartment complex buildings, and ended at the parking lot. Investigators determined that the suspect cut himself during the murder and may have left the scene in a vehicle.

It was not until 2004 that a DNA profile was created from the drops of blood, but a search of the state and national CODIS databases did not find a match for an offender.

Then, 15 years later, in November 2019, investigators from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and the Sacramento County Attorney’s Office Cold Case Team began a forensic genetic genealogical study.

On July 21, 2022, investigators identified the suspect as Richard John Davis. He was 27 at the time of the murder and lived in the same apartment complex where Bennallack was killed.

“They say the judiciary can sleep for years and wake up when you least expect it. A miracle is nothing more than a sleeping justice from another time, coming to make amends for those whom it has cruelly left,” said Schubert.

“When we talk about dormant justice and a miracle, there is no doubt that justice in this case has been dormant for decades. Over the years, for those of us who worked in the courthouse, I’ve often been asked by court clerks what’s going on with Nancy’s case.

“Nancy was never forgotten, she was always at the top of the list.”

Despite the breakthrough, authorities revealed that Davis died on November 2, 1997 in Sacramento County.

It’s unclear what the motive for the killing might have been, but Davis lived across from the pool from Bennallack’s apartment and had a direct view of her. Detectives suspect Davis may have had an attraction to her, but “that’s just a guess,” Links said.

“But obviously he intended to do what he did that day. He put masking tape on each of his fingers to hide his fingerprints. If he were alive, we would call it premeditated murder.”

“Due to the fact that Richard Davis has passed away there will sadly be no form of legal justice but Linda and Tom I hope this brings you some peace Nancy and your family,” said an emotional link to Bennallack’s family, who attended the press conference.

In a statement, her sister, Linda Cox, thanked officers for cracking the case, adding, “Honestly, I almost gave up on ever solving Nancy’s case.” Cold case murder of Nancy Bennallack solved using DNA technology that found the Golden State Killer


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