Man convicted of 1976 San Francisco murder thanks to DNA cold case hit

James Lee Mayfield

A church deacon was found guilty Tuesday of the savage rape and killing of San Francisco artist Jenny Read in her Potrero Hill studio during a burglary more than three decades ago.

James Lee Mayfield, 67, faces life in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 13. He was arrested in 2009 at the Shiloh Full Gospel Church on Third Street in the Bayview, where he lived and worked. A DNA hit linked him to the 1976 murder.

On May 19, 1976, the 29-year-old Read, a sculptor who did not know Mayfield, was found tied up and stabbed 13 times in her studio. The knife was still in her chest when her friend found her body, prosecutors said. She also had been sexually assaulted. Two weeks before her death, Read had reportedly written in a journal about being in fear of a prowler she thought she had heard near her home.

The initial investigation remained cold until DNA evidence preserved from the crime scene helped identify Mayfield. Mayfield was charged with murder while armed with a deadly weapon. A jury deliberated for one day Tuesday before reaching a guilty verdict.

Since the death penalty was deemed unconstitutional at the time of the slaying, it is not currently on the table, prosecutors said. Mayfield was not charged with rape either, as the statute of limitations on that crime had expired.

However, Mayfield, who has had previous convictions, likely won’t ever be freed from prison. His long rap sheet includes convictions for rape in 1968 and multiple burglaries from the late 60s to 1994. He was required to submit a DNA sample as part of his status as a felon.

Prosecutors called Mayfield a “monster.”

“This defendant took a life in cold blood,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Tuesday. “Thanks to technological advances and DNA evidence, James Mayfield will spend the rest of his life in prison for the atrocious acts.”

After Read’s death, a book of her work was published, titled “In Pursuit of Art and Life: The Journals and Letters of a Young Sculptor, San Francisco, 1970-1976.”Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsDNA cold case hitJames Lee MayfieldJenny Read

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