Bet­ter late than never

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In 1974, Arlis Perry was mur­dered at Stan­ford Univer­sity. Her mur­der had never been solved – un­til now. She may have been one of the vic­tims of a se­rial killer only dis­cov­ered years af­ter her death, and hours be­fore his.

In a July 2018 in­ter­view, the Santa Clara County Sher­iff re­vealed that it was re­open­ing this cold case af­ter work done with the NBC Bay Area and the Mur­der Ac­count­abil­ity Project found ev­i­dence that Arlis may have been the vic­tim of an al­leged se­rial killer, a man we won’t name as proof is still be­ing gath­ered and a case still be­ing made, al­though the data is com­pelling.

“DNA test­ing found ev­i­dence that [the al­leged se­rial killer] was a sus­pect in the 1974 mur­der, but when the po­lice went to knock on [man]’s door, he committed sui­cide rather than be ques­tioned,” says Thomas Har­grove. “This sparked in­ter­est.

Was there a chance he could have killed any­body else? Why would he have killed him­self rather than face the po­lice? To an­swer these ques­tions, we went into our data sys­tems and se­lected the Santa Clara ju­ris­dic­tion in the time frame re­quired. The al­go­rithm iden­ti­fied all the woman who had died in sim­i­lar ways.”

The data showed that in the 1970s and 1980s a large num­ber of un­solved mur­ders ap­peared and then stopped abruptly af­ter 1991. At this ex­act time, [the sus­pect] had been ar­rested for steal­ing books from Stan­ford, where he was a se­cu­rity guard. Af­ter he was re­leased he moved to Florida – and thus the pat­tern ended with his de­par­ture.

“There’s a rea­son to be­lieve that the rea­son why these mur­ders sud­denly stopped was be­cause he had moved,” adds Har­grove. “Now the pat­tern and [the sus­pect] are un­der­go­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion to un­cover whether or not a se­rial killer has in­deed been found.”

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