Sus­pect in 1974 slay­ing kills self

New DNA ev­i­dence linked man to the mur­der of new­ly­wed Arlis Perry in Stan­ford church, sher­iff says

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Sa­longa and Ju­lia Prodis Sulek Staff writ­ers

SAN JOSE » For four decades, wild the­o­ries have sur­rounded the mys­te­ri­ous and hor­rific killing of a 19-year-old new­ly­wed found bloody and bru­tal­ized in the pews of Stan­ford Me­mo­rial Church— that she was a vic­tim of a sa­tanic cult or the no­to­ri­ous se­rial killer “Son of Sam.” It ap­pears they were all wrong. On Thursday, for­mer Stan­ford cam­pus se­cu­rity guard Stephen Blake Craw­ford— who once told po­lice that he locked up the church the night of Oct. 12, 1974, and dis­cov­ered the body of Arlis Perry the next morn­ing — shot him­self in the head as po­lice with new ev­i­dence against him closed in on his San Jose stu­dio apart­ment.

Craw­ford’s death brings to a close one of the Bay Area’s most fa­mous un­solved mur­der cases, where in­ves­ti­ga­tors tried for 43 years to find the per­son who killed the sweet young bride by ram­ming an ice pick into her skull and vi­o­lat­ing her body with al­tar can­dles. Se­men was found on a church kneeler and a par­tial palm print was lifted from one of the can­dles, but nei­ther were enough at the time to catch the killer. Craw­ford left Stan­ford two years later. In1992, how­ever, hewas ar­rested and charged with steal­ing Western-style bronze

stat­ues and books that had gone miss­ing from cam­pus in the 1970s.

“It’s been frus­trat­ing through the years that we could never get enough ev­i­dence to charge the sus­pect,” said Santa Clara County Sher­iff Lau­rie Smith, who had started her ca­reer with the depart­ment shortly be­fore Perry’s death. “It’s dif­fi­cult for her fam­ily and it’s dif­fi­cult for our depart­ment, but we fi­nally have clo­sure on this case.”

Like Sacra­mento’s Golden State killer ap­pre­hended in April decades af­ter his al­leged mur­der­ous spree, Craw­ford was ul­ti­mately iden­ti­fied by DNA ev­i­dence, Smith said. It was con­clu­sive enough for deputies to ob­tain a search war­rant, which they were ex­e­cut­ing at 9 a.m. Thursday morn­ing at apart­ment No. 185 on the first floor of the time-worn Del Coron­ado apart­ment com­plex off High­way 85 on Cam­den Av­enue.

Po­lice had in­ter­viewed Craw­ford in re­cent weeks and when they iden­ti­fied them­selves at his door Thursday morn­ing, po­lice say, he shot him­self on the bed of his stu­dio apart­ment.

The news shocked Perry’s 88-year- old mother, Jean Dykema, who said in a phone in­ter­view from her home in Bis­marck, NorthDakota, that she is heart­bro­ken the sus­pect wasn’t caught sooner.

Inthe last cou­ple of years, she said, her hus­band, Marvin, “was pos­sessed with want­ing to­know” who killed their daugh­ter. “It’s been hor­ri­ble and my hus­band wanted to know so badly and he died three months ago.”

As a Chris­tian woman, she said, “I know there is some­one far greater that will pun­ish this per­son. I don’t have to do that.”

Dykema’s daugh­ter, Arlis, the youngest of their three chil­dren, was a cheer­leader in high school and baked cakes for ev­ery fel­low cheer­leader and bas­ket­ball player, she said. Her daugh­ter’s hus­band, Bruce Perry, was her high school sweet­heart. They mar­ried just be­fore he started his soph­more year at Stan­ford in premed.

“When they said they were get­ting mar­ried, we weren’t too happy,” Dykema said, say­ing they were too young and Cal­i­for­nia was too far. But they em­braced the cou­ple’s plans. “She was mar­ried eight weeks be­fore. We had a big wed­ding and they left in the car and that’s the last we saw her.”

The night of her death, the young cou­ple were walk­ing to the mail­box at 11:30 p.m. and quar­reled over check­ing the tire pres­sure on their car. Up­set, she told her hus­band she was go­ing to pray at the church, an iconic land­mark build­ing on the Stan­ford cam­pus that would one day be the scene of Ap­ple founder Steve Jobs’ me­mo­rial ser­vice. When she didn’t re­turn by 3:30 a.m., Bruce Perry called po­lice, who checked the church and found the doors locked. Craw­ford, the se­cu­rity guard, told po­lice he found her par­tially hid­den in a pew at 5:40 a.m.

Early sus­pi­cion fo­cused on Craw­ford as well as Perry’s hus­band, who re­mar­ried and went on to be­come a renowned child trauma ex­pert in Hous­ton. Both ap­par­ently passed poly­graph tests and the palm print wasn’t enough tomatch ei­ther man. Early on, Perry was cleared as a sus­pect. When con­tacted by this news or­ga­ni­za­tion, Perry’s daugh­ter and an­other rel­a­tive de­clined to com­ment.

Craw­ford was never cleared, Smith said. “There was just note nough ev­i­dence to charge him with a crime.”

Craw­ford’s brother and sis­ter-in-law, also reached by phone, de­clined to com­ment.

In 1992, po­lice ar­rested Craw­ford on sus­pi­cion of thefts in the 1970s of nu­mer­ous Amer­i­can In­dian ar­ti­facts in­clud­ing art ob­jects and sculptures, as well as about 200 rare books, from the Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity depart­ment of an­thro­pol­ogy and li­braries.

At the Del Coron­ado apart­ments — a sprawl­ing, salmon-colored stucco com­plex with sev­eral two-story build­ings — some neigh­bors awoke Thursday morn­ing to a loud bang. They said Craw­ford of­ten wore a cow­boy hat and walked with a cane. He had lived there since 1993 — a year af­ter his ar­rest for steal­ing Western art­work — and kept to him­self.

Ruby Fran­cisco, who lives across the way from Craw­ford, said the idea that a neigh­bor could have been in­volved in such a bru­tal case was up­set­ting. “I’m re­ally scared. I’m shook up,” she said. “My youngest is 14. She’s a girl.”

Apart­ment man­ager Leti­cia Gon­za­les said Craw­ford lived alone. He didn’t have a job, she said, and ap­par­ently lived on So­cial Se­cu­rity or re­tire­ment.

“He’s a good guy, never had any prob­lems,” she said. “All of us are shocked that this has hap­pened.”

Gon­za­les had been in­side his apart­ment with a main­te­nance crew a num­ber of times over the years, she said. It was min­i­mally fur­nished. The only or­na­men­ta­tion, she said, was Western art­work.

“He had nice bronze stat­ues of horses with Indians on them,” she said.

It’s un­clear whether Stan­ford re­trieved all the stolen bronzes in 1992. Stan­ford de­clined to com­ment Thursday. De­tec­tives were con­tin­u­ing to search his apart­ment Thursday even­ing for clues to the killing.

Gon­za­les said she never saw any sa­tanic sym­bols in the apart­ment that would sug­gest he was in­volved in the oc­cult. Po­lice say they knew of no ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing that ei­ther.

Over the decades, in­ves­ti­ga­tions took de­tec­tives to many places, in­clud­ing At­tica State Prison in New York, where they in­ter­viewed in­fa­mous “Son of Sam” cult killer David Berkowitz, who hinted he might know Perry’s killer but who au­thor­i­ties con­cluded had noth­ing of value to their case.

The case has been the sub­ject of books sug­gest­ing sa­tanic cults were in­volved as well as podcasts.

The cold-case unit in the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, led by prose­cu­tor Matt Braker, said the case was rou­tinely re­viewed by “fresh eyes” to grad­u­ally build a strong case against Craw­ford.

“This case has been looked at for years by mem­bers of the Sher­iff’s Of­fice and the DA’s of­fice,” Braker said. “Mul­ti­ple heads of our cold­case unit ad­vanced the case.”

Braker said that con­tin­ual ef­fort was fueled by the de­sire to bring clo­sure to Perry’s fam­ily.

“Their hope for jus­tice never ended, and that’s why we never for­get about a case like this,” he said Thursday.

DNA test­ing tech­nol­ogy was not avail­able in 1974. Over the years, the sher­iff’s depart­ment con­tin­ued to sub­mit ev­i­dence to the crime lab, and— with­out giv­ing de­tails — Smith said that with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, they fi­nally solved the case.

“This is a case that eludes us no longer,” Smith said dur­ing the news con­fer­ence Thursday even­ing. She stood in front of two en­larged pho­tos on easels, one of a blond-haired-Perry with a big smile and the other of a bald­ing Craw­ford with a beard. “Lead de­tec­tive, Sgt. Richard Ala­nis, kept this pic­ture of Arlis Perry with hi­mas a constant re­minder that her life and this case had value.”



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