A Suspect In The Cold Case Murder Of An Arizona Hiker Was Just Identified After 36 Years

Published August 30, 2023

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office has announced that it's highly likely that Bryan Scott Bennett murdered Catherine "Cathy" Sposito on a hiking trail in Prescott, Arizona, in 1987.

Cathy Sposito

Yavapai County Sheriff’s OfficeCathy Sposito was just 23 years old when she was murdered in Arizona.

Early on the morning of June 13, 1987, 23-year-old Catherine “Cathy” Sposito set out on a hike along Thumb Butte Trail in Prescott, Arizona. During the trek, others heard her scream and rushed to her aid — only to find her bloodied and dead on the trail. Sposito’s murder quickly went cold, but local police have just announced that a serial sexual predator named Bryan Scott Bennett was likely her killer.

“I am saying today with high confidence, Cathy Sposito was murdered by Bryan Scott Bennett,” Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes told reporters in a news conference about the discovery.

Police believe that Bennett, who was just 16 at the time, hit Sposito with a rock and a wrench, shot her in the eye, and stabbed her in the head before fleeing the scene. According to ABC News, Sposito was likely Bennett’s first victim, but he went on to attack at least three other women.

In April 1990, Bennett was accused of sexually assaulting another woman on the same trail, at the same time of day as Sposito, as she was camping with her boyfriend. That same year, he allegedly locked a girl in a room during a house party and tried to sexually assault her. And in June 1993, Bennett allegedly kidnapped another woman from a post office in Prescott, sexually assaulted her, and threatened to kill her because she’d “seen [his] face.”

Though Bennett was arrested for the house party assault and the kidnapping, he was never convicted of anything due to a lack of evidence. In 1994, he moved home to Kentucky and died by suicide.

For decades, both Sposito’s murder and the sexual assault on Thumb Butte Trail remained cold cases. According to KVOA, it took a group of volunteers from Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit — and DNA technology — to finally identify Bennett as the perpetrator.

Bryan Scott Bennett

Ashley Paredez/XThe Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office announced that there was a “highest degree of likelihood” that Bryan Scott Bennett was Cathy Sposito’s killer.

In 2020, the Cold Case Unit started to dig into the unsolved 1990 sexual assault. DNA from that case led them to two men, brothers, who had lived in the area at the time. Then, the investigators discovered that one of the brothers, Bryan Scott Bennett, was tied to other sexual assaults.

To be absolutely certain, investigators had Bennett’s body exhumed in November 2022. They found that his DNA matched the 1990 sexual assault and that his DNA also matched some found on the ratchet wrench used to bludgeon Sposito. That said, investigators also found other people’s DNA on the wrench, so they haven’t yet officially closed Sposito’s case.

“Even though there’s an extraordinarily high degree of likelihood that Bryan Scott Bennett killed her, we always take new information,” Rhodes said, according to ABC News.

For Renee Sandoval, the woman Bennett kidnapped in 1993, the discovery brings a sense of closure. Sandoval was rescued when police happened to pull over Bennett’s car, but she never got to see him convicted for his crime. She thanked the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office for “giving credence to her experience and for bringing some peace to Cathy Sposito.”

“This is a long time coming,” Sandoval, who was 22 at the time of the attack, said at the sheriff’s office’s press conference. “I want to start by saying thank you, God. I give you all the glory because he was with me that night. I prayed. He spoke to me. He’s the reason that I’m here today.”

Wrench Used By Bennett

Yavapai County Sheriff’s OfficeInvestigators found Bennett’s DNA on this wrench, which was used to kill Sposito.

The story doesn’t entirely end there, however. Investigators suspect that Bennett — given the frequency and consistency of his attacks — could have more victims out there.

“What we know of serious violent predators like this is that it is very unlikely, given the frequency in which he was willing to act, that these are the only four cases that exist,” Rhodes explained.

They’re appealing to the public to come forward with any information.

After reading about how police solved the cold case murder of Cathy Sposito, see how DNA evidence helped police solve the 40-year-old cold case murder of a California kindergartener. Or, see how police in Florida were able to arrest a rapist after he submitted his DNA to a genealogical website.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
Cite This Article
Fraga, Kaleena. "A Suspect In The Cold Case Murder Of An Arizona Hiker Was Just Identified After 36 Years." AllThatsInteresting.com, August 30, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/cathy-sposito-bryan-scott-bennett. Accessed April 20, 2024.