The Trailside Killer of San Francisco
The Trusted Friend
On May 2, Heather Roxanne Scaggs, 20, told her boyfriend that she was going to see David Carpenter about a used car; supposedly, a friend of Carpenter's was selling it and he was going to help her to purchase it. She was a student at Econo Quick Print, where Carpenter taught people how to use computer typesetting machines, and sometimes he had given her a lift home in a company car. She had mentioned wanting a car of her own, so he'd told her about this opportunity. He even offered to loan her whatever amount she did not yet have. In fact, he pressured her so much with additional incentives that she finally gave in and agreed to go see it. Before leaving, she gave her boyfriend, Dan Pingle, the number and address of David Carpenter, and a time when she expected to return.
But she did not return then, or hours later, so Pingle went looking for her and confronted Carpenter. He pretended that they'd never connected that morning. Now frantic, Pingle alerted the police. He knew that Carpenter had instructed Heather not to tell anyone where she was going and to bring $400 for the car. She'd been in a vulnerable position and had even expressed some concern about going.
Heather's disappearance brought up Carpenter's name again, already identified as resembling the composite drawing. That was too great a coincidence. Although no body had been found, Heather was about the right age to possibly have become a victim like those killed along hiking trails. The police checked records and found Carpenter's parole officer, Richard Wood. As he listened to their concerns, he started to add things up. Graysmith records his gut-level impression that Carpenter might be the killer the police were looking for.
The police now learned that Carpenter had not shown up in the records of released inmates when they'd initially looked, due to a technicality. He had been released by California to serve a federal sentence, Douglas explains, and while free, he was technically in federal custody. If not for this, he might have been flagged much earlier.
Wood thought they should keep a watchful eye on Carpenter, and he did what he could to facilitate their access to him. Detectives interviewed him about Heather and thought he resembled the composite of the person seen at the Trailside Murders' sites. They had also learned that he was a habitual sex offender, another item not fully documented in his records. The multi-agency task force got into gear to start following him.