San Diego

‘It's Been a Long Time Coming': Former Navy Sailor Sentenced For 1969 Murder of City Heights Woman

John Sipos was a former Navy sailor living in San Diego at the time of the murder

A photo of Mary Scott provided by the San Diego Police Department

 A 76-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a City Heights woman more than a half-century ago was sentenced Friday to seven years to life in state prison.

John Sipos was found guilty last month by a San Diego jury of killing 23-year-old Mary Scott on Nov. 20, 1969.

Scott, a go-go dancer at the Star & Garter club, was found dead inside her apartment by a friend who went to check on her after she failed to show up to her job a few blocks away.

Prosecutors allege Sipos, who was living in San Diego at the time after leaving the Navy, kicked down the door to Scott's home, broke her jaw, raped her and strangled her.

The seven-year-to-life state prison sentence was the maximum term he could have received, as it was the maximum punishment available at the time of the killing. He did not face a rape count at trial, because the statute of limitations on that charge ran out many years ago.

Police said that after the case went cold, it was later re-evaluated by the cold case units of the San Diego Police Department and San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

DNA left at the scene, along with forensic genealogy, tied Sipos to the killing and he was arrested in late 2020 at his Pennsylvania home.

At Sipos' sentencing hearing, defense attorney Brooke LaFrance argued her client's case was hampered by the inability to bring in several witnesses, including many who have since died. She also said evidence pointed to another suspect, though Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg said that man's DNA, unlike Sipos', was excluded from the crime scene.

"(Sipos) has been able to avoid accountability for his crime," the prosecutor said during the hearing. "It's been a long time coming."

Scott's sister, Rosalie Sanz, who was 16 at the time of Scott's death, said Sipos "robbed (Mary) of so much of her life," including getting to see her two young daughters grow up.

She never stopped fighting to bring her sister justice. After reading about new ancestral or genetic foresnics, she believed it could be used in her sister's case, and forensic investigators did just that.

One of Scott's daughters died in a car crash decades ago. Scott's other daughter, Donna Wyble, said Friday that her sister Christine, "would have wanted to see justice."

At the sentencing hearing, Wyble said, "I want John Sipos to know he has taken everything from my sister and I."

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