Cathy Sposito: Man who killed Arizona woman linked to other crimes, sheriff says

Authorities say they have identified the suspect who killed an Arizona woman 36 years ago on a Prescott hiking trail, and they believe he was linked to several sexual assault cases in the area.

Cathy Sposito, 23, was found dead on Thumb Butte Trail in Prescott on June 13, 1987. At around 7:00 a.m. that day, Sposito rode her mountain bike to the trailhead and began hiking up the path before she was killed.

Other hikers, according to investigators, heard Sposito's screams for help, but no one could reach her in time.

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Cathy Sposito (YCSO)

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office held a news conference on Aug. 25, announcing that Bryan Scott Bennett committed the murder.

"And today, she’s free. Cathy you’re free," said Renee Sandoval, who was attacked in 1993 by Bennett. "There’s so many emotions. I can’t tell you. I can’t explain it."

Deputies say he was linked to two other sexual assaults. The identities of the victims were not released.

Cold case detectives were able to link the four separate victims - Sposito, Sandoval and the remaining two - through new DNA analysis.

"His DNA was obtained as an unknown male DNA on victim number two," said Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes.

According to Sheriff Rhodes, the DNA was submitted to labs, and a female descendant was identified following a family tree analysis.

Read More: What is genetic genealogy?

The investigation led them to Kentucky, then to Bennett. He served time in an Arizona prison for forgery, and became a fugitive in 1993. 

Bennett, authorities say, died by suicide in 1994 and was buried in Kentucky. Sheriff Rhodes said a solid DNA sample was obtained after Bennett's body was exhumed. The DNA was matched to Sposito and another victim.

"Cathy Sposito, I am saying today with high confidence today, was murdered by Bryan Scott Bennett," said Sheriff David Rhodes.

The sheriff believes that there are likely more victims, and he's hoping they come forward.

Area where the murder happened