New analysis of DNA evidence by Santa Clara County cold case investigators and Mountain View police led to the July 9 arrest of a Bay Area tech company CEO at JFK airport in New York City for the strangulation murder of Laurie Houts 30 years ago, District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced Monday.
John Kevin Woodward, 58, president and CEO of Readytech, an online training company, was arrested as he got off a plane from Amsterdam, according to Rosen. Woodward is in custody awaiting extradition to Santa Clara County, where he will stand trial for a third time for killing Houts.
Rosen thanked the Mountain View Police Department, the DA’s Cold Case Unit, and criminalists in his office Crime Lab for their work that led to the arrest of Woodward:
“I want Ms. Houts family and friends to know that we never gave up on her,” Rosen said. “Neither time nor distance will stop us from finding out the truth and seeking justice.”
Woodward had moved to the Netherlands in 1996 after charges were dismissed following a second hung jury in the case. Juries in murder trials in 1995 and 1996 were deadlocked and could not reach verdicts in the cases against Woodward for killing Houts. Readytech’s headquarters are in Oakland, and the company’s website lists an office in the Netherlands.
Houts was a 25-year-old computer engineer for Adobe Systems at the time of her death.
On Sept. 5, 1992, a passerby found Houts dead in her vehicle in the 1300 block of Crittenden Lane in Mountain View, near a garbage dump about a mile from her work, in a summary of the case provided by Rosen July 11. “The rope used to kill her was still around her neck,” according to the summary. “Her footprints were on the windshield interior, a sign of her struggle with Woodward. Her unrifled pocketbook was nearby.”
An investigation quickly determined that Woodward was a prime suspect. Rosen said Woodward “was openly jealous of Houts, because he developed an unrequited romantic attachment to his roommate, her boyfriend.”
“He had no alibi,” reported Rosen. He reported that when the boyfriend asked Woodward if he had killed Houts, as police listened, the suspect asked what the investigators knew. Woodward’s fingerprints were located on the outside of Houts’ car, but investigators in 1992 were never able to show that he had been inside the vehicle.
In 2021, the county crime lab and Mountain View detectives linked Woodward to the rope found around Houts’ neck “using new developments in forensic science technology,” according to the district attorney.
In less than 24 hours, the Dutch Ministry of Justice in coordination with the U.S.Department of Justice obtained a warrant for the search of Woodward’s home and business in the Netherlands and seized multiple computers and USB drives, Rosen said in a Monday press release.
San Jose’s Gunderson High School, where Houts had been a three-sport athlete, has established a Houts Memorial Girls Athletic Scholarship, awarded to graduating female seniors who participated in sports who plan to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.