Legal saga begins in 33-year-old killing

A man accused of binding, raping and killing a San Francisco sculptor 33 years ago appeared in court Tuesday as prosecutors described what could be a lengthy road to trial.

James Mayfield, 63, is accused of stabbing 29-year-old sculptor Jenny Read 13 times after raping her and tying her up inside her Potrero Hill home during a burglary. A friend found Reid’s body in a pool of blood May 19, 1976 inside her home. A knife was still in her chest, Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew said.

“It was a horrendous crime,” Buckelew said.

Mayfield has pleaded not guilty.

Mayfield, of San Francisco, is charged with premeditated murder with use of a deadly weapon. He also faces special circumstances of killing Read while in commission of rape and burglary. Mayfield faces life in prison, but the death penalty was deemed unconstitutional at the time of the murder and is not on the table. He is not charged with rape, as the statute of limitations had expired.

He was arrested Aug. 3, five months after police obtained a hit from the state’s DNA database linking Mayfield to the crime. Mayfield, who was convicted of rape in 1968 and multiple burglaries from the late 60s to 1994, was required to submit a DNA sample as part of his status as a felon.

Prosecutors spent the five months between the cold case hit and the arrest gathering evidence, Buckelew said.

The decades that have passed since the crime could delay time to trial.

“Aside from the DNA, in putting together a case 33 years old, the difficulties are apparent,” Buckelew said. In many cold cases, witnesses die, memories fade, and experts who gathered the evidence may be hard to locate.

Buckelew estimated that it would be at least six months before Mayfield faces a preliminary hearing in which prosecutors will lay out their evidence against him.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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