She was just passing the intersection of 12784 Poway and Carriage Road, traveling along a dirt pathway that straddled the Poway Road, when it is speculated that somebody laying in wait leapt from a grassy depression and viciously attacked the young teenage girl with a short-bladed knife. She had a knife wound to her neck and bruises on her elbows and knees, but the fatal injuries were two stab wounds that penetrated her heart.
The young girl did not succumb to her injuries immediately, with a trail of blood extending 200 yards to the west side of Carriage Road as she desperately sought help near a local shopping center. At approximately 6:30 pm, an 11-year-old boy, Ronald Fisk, discovered the critically injured girl and raced away on his bicycle to seek help from his father, who worked at a nearby market store. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of responding personnel, Nikki Benedict would be pronounced dead upon her arrival at Palomar Hospital.
Much speculation has followed this case for 54 years and theories surrounding the murder of Nikki Benedict are far reaching, that include the infamous Zodiac Killer. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I see very little in this murder that points towards the Bay Area murderer of five. It is certainly possible that this could be an early attack perpetrated by the infamous Zodiac Killer, but other than an attack with a knife at a location 82 miles south of the Riverside murder of Cheri Jo Bates, that may or may not have been committed be the Zodiac Killer, there is little else. The injuries detailed in the murder of Nikki Benedict suggest a brief encounter, before the suspect fled on foot from the pathway. From the reports in the newspapers, it appears that no sexual interference took place on the young girl, and no eyewitnesses have testified to viewing the attack as it unfolded. What we do know (which is limited), is the assailant inflicted a wound to her neck (as though a knife was pressed against her skin) and two fatal stab wounds to her chest, in what has been described as a brief struggle. Then there are reports of an individual running away from the crime scene.
Bearing in mind that this attack wasn't viewed in progress by any eyewitnesses, why would a grown man with ulterior motives, fail to achieve his objective of overpowering a 14-year-old girl at this location, or fail to drag her away to a waiting vehicle? Nikki Benedict traveled at least 200 yards after the attack in a desperate bid to seek help, that not only showed the attacker's inability to kill her on the spot, but based on her described injuries, appeared to corroborate the notion of a brief encounter before the assailant ran away on foot. Using this speculatory analysis, it could be argued that her killer was extremely inexperienced and inadequate. This tallies with the description given in one newspaper of a young man seen running away from the crime scene. Another newspaper detailed a witness, who "reported seeing a white male running from the area but it was from a considerable distance and the description was broad, investigators said". From these limited eyewitness descriptions, it is certainly possible her attacker was an inexperienced youth of similar age to Nikki Benedict.
“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".
There is every chance her killer was local, every chance he knew Nikki, and every chance he was either a classmate of the young girl, or he waited for her that day as she left school and visited her friend's house. Nikki Benedict would usually travel the 2.3 mile journey from Meadowbrook Junior High School on the school bus to her home at 13530 Olive Tree Lane, however, on this Monday she visited her friend Kathie in Halper Road to discuss an art project.
Meadowbrook Junior High School is situated just off Halper Road, and her attacker struck just 20 minutes after she left the home of her friend. Not only are the three locations of school, friend's house and attack location extremely close to one another, but was it really just bad luck that the only day she didn't travel home using the school bus, was the day an attacker just happened to be lurking in a depression alongside the pathway she chose that evening? Or was her attacker connected to Meadowbrook Junior High School, who followed Nikki to her friend's house and waited for her to leave to walk home? It wouldn't be the first time a young man pestered and stalked a young girl. In absence of any eyewitnesses before the attack, had the young man walked with and spoken to Nikki Benedict? When he didn't get or hear what he wanted, could he then have lashed out in a brief, but deadly attack, from which he may have been seen running away from? His flight path could tell us so much as to what area of Poway he lived.
Sadly, Nikki Benedict passed away during the ambulance ride to Palomar Hospital without uttering a word, but my guess had she done so, would have identified somebody she knew of similar age, who deliberately lay in wait in the field opposite Halper Road that evening. It's certainly possible this could be a random assailant unknown to the young girl, but the proximity of Meadowbrook Junior High School, Kathie Gomski's house in Halper Road, the pathway alongside the Poway Road, the seemingly inexperienced attack which was initially survived by Nikki Benedict and the young white male seen running away from the crime scene, appears like a targetted attack of somebody known to the young teenage girl. This, coupled with the fact she usually caught the school bus home, could indicate prior knowledge of her intentions and movements that day.
Irrespective of my take on the murder of Nikki Benedict, the overarching priority is to identify the killer no matter who he turns out to be. If you have any information pertaining to this case, please call the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit at (858) 974-2321 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477. Or use the online tip form.