After nearly two decades, an Arizona man has been arrested in the homicide case of a Bakersfield woman found dead in an Adelanto field.

On Valentine's Day, Scott David Herr, 44, pleaded not guilty in Victorville Superior Court to charges of murder after he was brought back to San Bernardino County from an Arizona mental hospital on Feb. 12, officials said.

He is suspected of the 1994 killing of then-44-year-old Sue Gray, who also went by Sue Paynter. Herr is scheduled to be back in Victorville Superior Court on Feb. 25.

Gray's body was found under a bush in the 11700 block of Rancho Road on April 1, 1994, said Deputy District Attorney John Thomas of the county's cold case team.

"Back then the Adelanto (Police Department) deemed this to be a homicide and began an investigation," Thomas said. "When the Sheriff's Department took over responsibility for Adelanto, they took over their open homicide cases."

The cold case team, comprised of sheriff's Detectives Ryan Ford and Scott Cannon, and Thomas, took a look at the Gray case and determined there was a good chance at solving the homicide.

Late last year, the team submitted DNA evidence first collected in 1994 to CODIS, a national data bank of DNA profiles, and the team soon learned there was a match in Arizona.

According to Maricopa County, Ariz., court records, in November 1995, Herr, a truck driver, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault in a case in which Herr reportedly picked up a prostitute, and allegedly raped her and attempted to strangle her.

The woman was able to get away from Herr and reported the attack, records show.

In 1996, through a plea deal, Herr pleaded guilty to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, court records show, and he was sentenced to 10 years in an Arizona prison.

After his release in 2005, he reportedly violated the terms of his probation and was eventually placed in Arizona's State Hospital in Phoenix for mental health reasons.

Due to his conviction, Herr's DNA was in the CODIS data bank.

Following the DNA match, Thomas filed murder charges against Herr, and a warrant for Herr's arrest was issued.

Ford and Cannon traveled to Phoenix and brought Herr back to stand trial for Gray's slaying, Thomas said.

At the time of Gray's death, Herr was working as a truck driver, authorities said.

Investigators said they do not believe Gray was a prostitute but that she frequently took rides from truck drivers.

The cold case team was formed in spring 2008. Since then, it has made arrests and filed charges in about 30 cases.

There are more than 1,200 cold cases in San Bernardino County, according to the DA's Office, and more than 100 have been reopened for review by the team.


Reach Beatriz via email, call her at 909-386-3921, or find her on Twitter @IEBeatriz.