San Diego County

Poway Teen's Killing Is a Mystery 51 Years Later

Nikki Benedict, 14, was stabbed to death in Poway on May 1, 1967. Her killer has never been identified.

Nikki Benedict was last seen walking home from a friend's house on May 1, 1967. Fifty-one years later, we still don't know who stabbed her and left her to die in a field. 

Benedict's family and San Diego County CrimeStoppers are asking the public to help solve this cold case. 

Benedict, 14, was stabbed in the neck and chest when she was found on a dirt trail, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The area was near Carriage Road and Poway Road - long before the area was developed and homes were built. 

Benedict left her friend's home sometime before 6:15 p.m. to walk more than a mile to her house through fields and undeveloped land. 

An 11-year-old boy discovered Benedict lying on the path, critically injured and ran to tell his father who owned a market nearby.

Deputies and emergency crews responded to the scene. They believe the girl was attacked between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

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.

A witness reporting seeing a white male running from the area but it was from a considerable distance and the description was broad, investigators said.

Despite an extensive investigation, officials said detectives were never able to determine a motive for the killing or identify any viable suspects.

“Could it be a local? Yes, it could be. Could it be an outsider? Yes, it could be," said Detective Will Altenhof with the San Diego County Sheriff's Dept. "We don’t really have evidence to suggest one way or another.” 

Altenhof said Poway was small at the time of the killing and investigators had contacted every teenager from the 8th to 12th grade. 

Detectives re-opened Benedict’s case in the 1990s and ran DNA tests. However, the tests turned up no answers.

However, investigators said DNA is not what would solve this case. They're hoping to get a lead from someone in the community who may know something or may have heard something. 

“The world seems to expect that we get over this kind of loss at some point. No, we don’t,” said Nikki's younger sister, Marianna Bacilla.

Bacilla lives in Poway and has fond memories of her older, 14-year old sister who taught her how to write her name. There were six daughters in the Benedict family. Only three sisters are still alive. 

Nikki's death tore her family apart, Bacilla said. 

“It’s not wrong to want to know what happened to Nikki after all of these years. To know who stole her future and ours forever,” she said. 

A year doesn’t go by where she isn’t contacted by someone with a theory.

“I’ve just found that’s a road to heartbreak,” she said. 

Benedict's family has kept Nikki's memory alive through a memorial photo album on Facebook, which can be seen here.

Anyone with information on this cold case can 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.

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