Hometown Homicides is traveling to Aiken, South Carolina, to investigate the vicious rape and murder of teenager Jessica Carpenter in her own home by delivery man Robert F Atkins.
On August 4, 2000, Atkins arrived at the home of 17-year-old Jessica, he was dressed in his Airborne Express delivery uniform, and he managed to talk his way inside by asking Jessica if he could use the phone.
Once inside, he attacked and raped the teenager before strangling the life out of her with a phone cord and then slashing her throat with a kitchen knife. An autopsy determined that she’d died from internal bleeding and a lack of oxygen.
In the following months, the cops interviewed 300 people and submitted 100 DNA samples to the state database, but they failed to find a match or a suspect.
At one point, the police considered serial killer Reinaldo Rivera who was arrested a couple of months after the murder and had operated in the area. Carpenter resembled the type of victim Rivera targeted; however, he was quickly discounted as a suspect when his DNA failed to match.
Robert F Atkins identified as killer
A breakthrough in the case came two years after Jessica’s murder when Atkins was arrested in Georgia for an unrelated crime. When his DNA was fed into a database, authorities discovered that it matched DNA recovered from the Aiken crime scene.
Officers subsequently learned that Atkins had been scheduled to make a delivery in the area of Jessica’s home on the day she died. He had previously delivered to the Carpenter home in July, so perhaps he expected Jessica to be there.
The cops were later stunned to learn that Atkins had bought a marriage license on the day he committed the murder, and the next day he got married.
In May 2006, Robert Atkins pleaded guilty and was finally convicted of the rape and murder of Jessica Carpenter and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His guilty plea meant he avoided the death penalty.
Jessica’s father subsequently sued the Airborne Express Delivery company for negligence in their failure to do a proper background check on Atkins. However, a judge ruled that the company was not culpable.
More murders from Hometown Homicides
Follow the links to read about more horrendous murders from smalltown America profiled on Hometown Homicides.
Bruce Brenizer was just 15 when he decided to kill his family. At their trailer in rural Wisconsin, he shot his dad and stepmother along with his two sisters and a half-sister. With the help of his cousin, Jesse Anderson, they set their bodies alight in a car in the woods.
A South Carolina business couple, John and Liz Calvert, disappeared, without a trace from their hometown in 2008 shortly after going to confront their accountant, Dennis Gerwing. A week later, Gerwing committed suicide.
Who Killed Jessica Carpenter? A Hometown Homicide Mystery airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.