Authorities identify killer in 1987 cold case on Arizona hiking trail

Published: Aug. 26, 2023 at 3:29 AM EDT
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PRESCOTT, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5/Gray News) - Deputies from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona have cracked a case in the brutal murder of a college student over three decades ago.

The murder of Cathy Sposito was unsolved, but remained open and active for 36 years.

On Friday, Sheriff David Rhodes named Bryan Scott Bennett as Sposito’s killer. Bennett also allegedly had more victims in northern Arizona who were attacked and sexually assaulted.

Sposito was killed on June 13, 1987 while hiking Thumb Butte Trail in Prescott, Arizona.

The then-23-year-old rode her bike to the trailhead that morning and began her hike. However, hikers in the area later reported hearing screams for help.

By the time they found Sposito, she was dead. Investigators found she was shot in the eye, stabbed and hit in the head with a rock and ratchet.

At the time of Sposito’s murder, Bennett was a 16-year-old high school student in Prescott. Sposito was Bennett’s first victim, investigators said.

According to Sheriff Rhodes, Bennett also allegedly brutally attacked and sexually assaulted a second victim in April 1990 on the same trail and at the same time of day as Sposito’s incident. The victim was camping with her boyfriend, went for a hike on the Thumb Butte Trail and within minutes, Bennett snuck up behind her and held a rock to her head, deputies said. After the attack, he ran off into the woods.

In July 1990, Bennett was accused of attempted assault at a house party in Chino Valley, Arizona. The victim was reportedly drinking and went to lie down in a bedroom. However, Bennett followed the victim into the room and tried to sexually assault her. Witnesses were able to break down the door and Bennett ran away. He was later arrested by the Chino Valley Police Department, but later acquitted due to conflicting eyewitness testimonies.

On June 2, 1993, Bennett went up to a fourth victim at the Prescott post office, held her at knifepoint and allegedly sexually assaulted her multiple times, officials said. He was arrested, but a lack of evidence resulted in no consequences.

On Jan. 27, 1994, Bennett returned to his home state of Kentucky and died by suicide.

Detectives had a break in the case when investigating Bennett’s second victim. His body was exhumed and DNA linked him back to Sposito’s case.