More than 50 years after Nancy Bennallack was brutally stabbed to death and nearly decapitated in a frenzied attack in her bedroom, the identity of her killer has finally been revealed, closing Sacramento County’s oldest cold case.
“When we have crimes like this, we never forget,” Sacramento Undersheriff Jim Barnes said during a press conference Wednesday, describing the announcement as an “historic day.”
The case was picked up several times over the years but eluded detectives until DNA technology that helped solve the Golden State Killer’s case helped to pinpoint a suspect. Since the Golden State Killer breakthrough in 2018, more than 150 cases have been solved as a result of DNA technology. “Without this tool, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.
Bennallack, a 28-year-old court reporter, was found brutally stabbed in her apartment by her friend and apartment manager after she failed to turn up to work on Oct. 26, 1970.
According to a retired sergeant at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Micki Links, Bennallack was asleep in her bed when sometime between 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 25 and the early morning hours of Oct. 26 the suspect made entry into her apartment by climbing up to the second story balcony and through the open slider. The man clambered over the balcony with tape on his fingers before breaking into Bennallack’s apartment.
The man stabbed Bennallack over 30 times and nearly decapitated her. She sustained multiple defensive wounds on her hands and arms, indicating she fought for her life.
Hours before her death, Bennallack spent the evening with her fiancé, chief public defender Farris Salamy. The two were set to marry in just weeks. At approximately 11:30 p.m., Salamy left Bennallack’s apartment to return to his own residence. He told detectives at the time that when he left the Bell Street apartment, Bennallack was in bed and the sliding glass door, which opened to the second story balcony, was slightly ajar to allow the cat to go outside.
After the killing, investigators located a blood trail that began on the balcony, continued to the sidewalk below and around the apartment complex buildings, and ended at the parking lot. The investigators determined the suspect cut himself during the murder and possibly left the scene in a vehicle.
It wasn’t until 2004 that a DNA profile was developed from the blood drops, but a search through the the state and national CODIS databases found no match to an offender.
Then, 15 years later, in November 2019, investigators from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office cold case team and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office began a forensic genetic genealogy investigation.
On July 21, 2022, investigators identified the suspect as Richard John Davis. He was 27 years old at the time of the murder and lived in the same apartment complex where Bennallack was killed.
“It’s been said that justice can sleep for years and awaken when it is least expected. A miracle is nothing more than dormant justice from another time arriving to compensate those it has cruelly abandoned,” Schubert said.
“When we talk about dormant justice and a miracle, there is no doubt that justice in this case was dormant for decades. Over the years for those of us who worked in the courthouse, I often got asked by court reporters what’s going on with Nancy’s case.
“Nancy was never forgotten, she was always top of the list.”
Despite the breakthrough, authorities revealed Davis died in Sacramento County on Nov. 2, 1997. He had no violent prior arrests, though had a reported DUI arrest.
It is unclear what the motive for killing may have been, but Davis lived opposite the pool from Bennallack’s apartment and had a direct view of her. Detectives surmise Davis perhaps had an attraction to her, but “that’s just a guess,” Links said.
“But clearly, he intended to do what he did that day. He put masking tape on every one of his fingers to conceal his fingerprints. If he were alive we would be talking about a premeditated murder.”
“Due to the fact that Richard Davis is deceased, sadly, there won’t be any form of legal justice, but Linda and Tom, I hope this brings you, Nancy, and your family some peace,” an emotional Links told Bennallack’s family, who were at the press conference.
In a statement, her sister, Linda Cox, thanked officials for cracking the case, adding, “truthfully, I was almost giving up ever solving Nancy’s case.”
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