After 40 Years, Arrest Made in Murder of California Teen

Karen Stitt, 15, was abducted from bus stop, raped, stabbed 59 times
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2022 12:06 PM CDT
After 40 Years, Arrest Made in Murder of California Teen
Gary Ramirez in 1979.   (Santa Clara District Attorney)

(Newser) – Investigators say they've tracked down the man who abducted 15-year-old Karen Stitt from a bus stop in California 40 years ago, raped her, stabbed her 59 times, and left her to die. The Santa Clara District Attorney's Office says Gary Ramirez, 75, was arrested in Hawaii last week and will be extradited to California to stand trial on charges of murder, kidnap, and rape, NBC News reports. Police say Stitt took a bus from her home in the Bay Area city of Palo Alto to Sunnyvale to visit her boyfriend on Sept. 2, 1982, and was abducted as she waited for a bus home. The next morning, a truck driver found her body at the base of a cinder block wall around 100 yards from the bus stop.

The boyfriend—who said he felt bad about leaving Stitt alone at the bus stop but was worried about being punished for staying out past curfew—was considered a suspect for 20 years or so, until DNA analysis of bodily fluids from the crime scene ruled him out in the early 2000s. Sunnyvale police Detective Matt Hutchison, who's 38 and has followed the case since he was a child, worked with a genealogist to narrow the list of suspects to four brothers from Fresno in 2019 and collected a DNA sample from one of Ramirez's children, CBS News reports. A search warrant was obtained to swab Ramirez's mouth for a sample, and the DNA matched that at the crime scene.

Hutchison personally arrested Ramirez in Maui. He tells the San Jose Mercury News that when the DNA match came back, he opened a photo of Stitt on his laptop "and I just told her, ‘We did it.'" "Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery," Santa Clara County 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." Rudy Ramirez, the suspect's older brother, says Gary Ramirez moved to Hawaii in the late 1980s. He says his brother—a retired exterminator—"wouldn't hurt a fly" and he has never seen him angry or violent. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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