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Four decades after a California teen girl was brutally raped and killed, DNA has led to the arrest of her alleged killer.
Hawaii resident Gary Ramirez, 75, was arrested on Aug. 2 at his home in Makawao on the island of Maui, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced in a news release. Once he is extradited back to California, he will be arraigned on murder, kidnapping and rape charges for the 1982 assault on and death of 15-year-old Karen Stitt.
Stitt, of Palo Alto, was last seen alive by her teen boyfriend walking towards a bus stop near his home in Sunnyvale — less than 10 miles from her home — on the evening of Sept. 2, 1982. Her body was found just 100 yards away from the bus stop the following morning, “concealed behind a blood-stained cinderblock wall,” according to the press release. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times.
Her murderer had left both his blood and bodily fluid on her body. (That DNA eventually cleared her boyfriend, who had long been considered a suspect.)
For decades, her murder remained unsolved, but in 2019 investigators, acting on a tip, reopened the case. Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison received information that led him to believe that the teen’s killer “was likely one of four brothers from Fresno," according to the news release. They then used new technology to analyze the DNA left on Stitt's body.
Ramirez, formerly of Fresno, was identified as the likely source of that DNA in April of 2022, and his identification was confirmed through the Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab earlier this month.
Ramirez would have been 35 at the time he allegedly raped and murdered the 15-year-old girl.
“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” Santa Clara County D.A. Jeff Rosen said in the announcement. “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.”
Ramirez is due in court his week. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer.
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