A 75-year-old Hawaii man was accused Tuesday of the brutal rape and murder of a California teenager, four decades after her body was found by a cinder block wall in Silicon Valley, authorities said.
Gary Ramirez was linked to the 1982 killing of Karen Stitt, 15, after a Sunnyvale police detective was alerted to the killer’s possible identity last year, according to court documents filed in Santa Clara County.
Ramirez, who grew up in the Fresno area and served in the Air Force, was arrested Aug. 2 in Maui and is expected to be extradited on charges of murder, kidnap and rape, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
A trucker found Stitt’s body on the morning of Sept. 3, 1982, at the base of a cinder block wall, according to a statement of facts included in the court documents.
An autopsy revealed that she’d been stabbed 59 times, the document says. Sunnyvale Police Detective Matt Hutchinson, who wrote the statement of facts, said the teen had also been raped.
Stitt’s boyfriend, who had been with her the night before she was killed, was initially believed to be a suspect, the district attorney’s office said.
They’d met on the night Sept. 2 at a 7-Eleven in Sunnyvale, where the boyfriend lived, and spent a few hours together before Stitt went to a bus stop for a ride home to Palo Alto, according to the statement of facts.
Her naked body was found 100 yards from the bus stop, the document says.
The boyfriend was ruled out as a suspect after a DNA analysis found that sperm collected from Stitt’s body and male blood found at the crime scene didn’t match a sample provided by the boyfriend.
No other suspect was identified, and the case remained cold until 2021, two years after Hutchinson teamed up with a genetic genealogist, The Associated Press reported.
The researcher found that a son of a woman named Rose Aguilera Ramirez may have killed Stitt, the statement of facts says.
Hutchinson found that the woman’s family lived in the Fresno area and that she had four sons, according to the document. The detective ruled out two of the brothers as possible suspects using law enforcement and public records databases, the document says.
When details for one of the two remaining brothers couldn’t be verified, Hutchinson found a child of Gary Ramirez and obtained DNA, according to the statement of facts.
The county crime lab compared the DNA sample from the crime scene and found “very strong statistical support” that they were a match, the statement says.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Ramirez, who was arrested at his home in Makawao, has a lawyer to speak on his behalf.
One of his brothers, Rudy Ramirez, told the San Jose Mercury-News that he’d never seen his brother get violent or angry.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he told the newspaper.
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.