A man believed to have killed 19-year-old newlywed Arlis Perry in 1974 shot himself to death this morning as police closed in on his San Jose apartment, authorities said.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office zeroed in on the suspect—whose identity was not disclosed to reporters—by re-testing DNA in the murder at Stanford Memorial Church.
NBC Bay Area, citing unnamed sources, is reporting that the suspect was the security guard who was first to walk in on the scene of the homicide.
According to the Mercury News, cold case detectives reached out to the suspect in recent weeks. When deputies got to the door of his Camden Avenue apartment, they verbally announced their presence. While proceeding to make entry, they heard a gunshot.
The man—reportedly Steve Crawford—was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was hurt, according to San Jose police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Garcia, who issued a press release about the sheriff’s operation.
Perry’s murder exploded into the national spotlight in the early 1970s because of the bizarre circumstances surrounding the case. Perry, the wife of Stanford sophomore Bruce Perry, died by an ice pick strike to the back of her head.
The night watchman walked into the sanctuary at 5:40am on Oct. 12, 1974, and found her body, nude from the waist down, at the foot of the altar.
Investigators determined that Perry had been beaten and molested by a three-foot candlestick. Another candlestick was apparently shoved up her blouse with enough force to break both bra straps. A semen-stained pillow sat close to the body.
The only usable print at the scene was a handprint left on one of the candlesticks. But none of the evidence matched Perry, according to a Stanford Daily article about the crime. So the case went cold—until now.
The dean of the church at the time, Rev. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, described the scene as “ritualistic and satanic,” which fueled the media frenzy over the slaying, the S.F. Weekly reported. But then-Undersheriff Tom Rosa told the Associated Press that it seemed “to fit the pattern of a sexual psychopath.”