Family, friends and former classmates will gather Thursday evening to take part in a candlelight vigil for the victim of an unsolved murder case that happened nearly 47 years ago in San Diego’s Poway community.
The vigil will honor Nikki Benedict, a 14-year-old who was killed while walking home from a friend’s house on May 1, 1967.
According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, during the early hours of that day, the teenage girl was stabbed in the neck and chest, and left to die on a dirt trail in the 12700-block of Poway Road.
At around 6:30 p.m., an 11-year-old boy discovered Benedict lying on the dirt path, critically injured. The boy ran to tell his father about the lifeless teen, and deputies and emergency crews responded to the scene.
Benedict was taken to Palomar Medical Center but she was pronounced dead upon arrival.
According to investigators, the scene showed evidence of a struggle near the location where the teenager was found. Despite an extensive investigation, officials said detectives were never able to determine a motive for the killing or identify any viable suspects.
To this day – nearly five decades later – Benedict’s slaying remains unsolved. Cold case detectives continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the teen’s murder.
Meanwhile, the reward for information on this case has increased to $6,000, with San Diego County Crime Stoppers offering $1,000 and one of Benedict’s childhood friends adding $5,000.
Thursday’s vigil – open to the public and set for 6 p.m. at Poway Community Park at 13094 Civic Center Dr. – is aimed to bring attention back to the cold case. Benedict’s loved ones will be remembering her life and also celebrating what would’ve been her 61st birthday.
Benedict’s sister, Marianna Benedict Bacilla, said that for the last 47 years, her family has wanted nothing more than to solve the case. By shedding light once again on the mystery of her sister’s killing, the family is hoping someone, somewhere, comes forward with new information.
"The idea of finding out who did this, it would be a pretty amazing thing to finally know. But I don't know if we'll ever know. I certainly hope somebody speaks up,” Bacilla told NBC 7.
Bacilla said detectives re-opened her sister’s case about 13 years ago and ran DNA tests. However, the tests turned up no answers.
Today, anyone with information on this cold case should contact the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Unit at (858) 974-2321. Anonymous tips can also be called into Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or submitted via this online tip form.
Benedict's family has kept her memory alive through a memorial photo album on Facebook, which can be seen here.