Man arrested in 1982 cold case for rape, murder of 15-year-old girl

“The mystery of Karen Stitt’s death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective that would never, ever give up,” said DA Jeff Rosen

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 10 August 2022 22:13 BST

DNA leads to arrest of suspect in 1982 Bay Area killing

A man has been arrested in the 1982 stabbing rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in California.

Gary Ramirez, 75, of Hawaii was accused of the crimes on Tuesday, 40 years after the body of Karen Stitt was discovered next to a cinder block wall in Silicon Valley, according to authorities.

Mr Ramirez was connected to the rape and murder after a detective in Sunnyvale became aware of the possible identity of the killer last year, Santa Clara County court documents have revealed, according to NBC News.

The Hawaii resident grew up around Fresno, California, and later served in the US Air Force in the early 1970s. He was arrested on 2 August in Makawao on Maui and now faces possible extradition on several charges, including murder, rape, and kidnap, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

“Karen Stitt was last seen by her teenage boyfriend walking at night toward a Sunnyvale bus stop. The next morning her naked body was found concealed behind a blood-stained cinderblock wall. The 15-year-old Palo Alto girl had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times,” the DA’s office said.

His next court appearance has been set for 10 August. If he’s convicted, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” DA Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “The mystery of Karen Stitt’s death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective that would never, ever give up.”

Gary Ramirez has been linked to the 1982 killing of 15-year-old Karen Stitt

On Thursday 2 September 1982, Ms Stitt took a bus from her Palo Alto home to Sunnyvale, where her boyfriend was living. He walked her to the El Camino Real and Wolfe Rd area for her to take the bus back at around midnight.

Seeing her walk towards the bus stop, the boyfriend ran back home to avoid being grounded for being out late.

Karen Stitt, 15, was found dead after being stabbed 59 times

“Her body was found about 100 yards from the bus stop the next morning,” the DA’s office said in its statement. “The killer left both his blood and bodily fluid on Ms Stitt. Ms Stitt’s boyfriend, long considered a suspect in her murder, was cleared based on the DNA evidence.”

Detective Matt Hutchison received a tip in early 2019 and was able to determine, alongside a genealogist, that the killer was likely to be one of four Fresno brothers.

In late April of this year, Mr Ramirez was found to be the “likely source of blood and bodily fluid left at the Karen Stitt crime scene,” the DA’s office said.

Last week, that assertion was confirmed by the Santa Clara County DA’s crime lab.

The arrest of Mr Ramirez was months in the making and conducted by Santa Clara, Maui, and federal authorities.

“After leaving the military, Ramirez frequented or resided in the Bay Area Peninsula, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaii,” the DA’s office said.

Mr Ramirez is a retired bug exterminator with no criminal record, according to police. He remains in a Maui jail and it’s unclear if he has retained an attorney.

His older brother Rudy Ramirez told The Mercury News: “I’ve never seen him violent or get angry ever. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Mr Hutchinson told the Associated Press that when he received the email confirming the DNA match, “I wanted to scream, but I can’t because I didn’t want to wake up the hotel. So I just took a moment to reflect”.

He added: “I took a quick glance at her photo, and I just told her, ‘We did it.’”

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