36 Years Later, Police Solve Hiker's Murder

Cathy Sposito was killed by a high school student in Arizona, says sheriff
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 28, 2023 11:55 AM CDT
36 Years Later, Police Solve Hiker's Murder
Cathy Sposito.   (Yavapai County Sheriff's Office)

A young college student who was brutally killed on a popular hiking trail in Arizona decades ago was the victim of a serial predator who took his own life years later, authorities say. Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes announced that DNA evidence indicates Bryan Scott Bennett was the man responsible for 23-year-old Catherine "Cathy" Sposito's 1987 death, per the AP. Authorities had the body of Bennett, who killed himself in 1994, exhumed last year. It wasn't until March that investigators confirmed DNA on a wrench used in the slaying belonged to him.

By releasing this news now, authorities hope to determine whether there were other victims in addition to Sposito and three other women that authorities believe Bennett attacked. "What we know of serious violent predators like this, it is very unlikely given the frequency in which he was willing to act that these are the only four cases that exist," Rhodes said. Sposito was hiking on Thumb Butte Trail near downtown Prescott in the early morning of June 13, 1987, when she was attacked. Sposito was hit in the head with a rock and a wrench, shot in the eye, and then stabbed in the head, according to investigators.

Other hikers heard her scream for help, but she was dead by the time they got to her, Rhodes said. Sposito's killing rocked Prescott and Yavapai County as Thumb Butte Trail had always been seen as safe. Bennett was a junior at Prescott High School at the time of her death. He had moved from Calvin, Kentucky, and only spent a year and a half there before withdrawing from school, Rhodes said. Authorities now believe he was behind a 1990 sexual assault of another woman on the same trail at the same time of day.

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Two months after that incident, Bennett allegedly locked a girl in a room at a house party and tried to sexually assault her. He was arrested but acquitted. In 1993, Bennett allegedly kidnapped a woman at a Prescott post office at knifepoint and sexually assaulted her several times. The victim was rescued when police happened to pull over the car they were in. Bennett was arrested but was never convicted. In 2017, advanced and more accessible DNA technology led investigators to identify a descendant of Bennett and link Bennett to the second attack on Thumb Butte Trail. They then worked backward to Sposito's case. (More cold cases stories.)

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