SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A cold case more than 40 years in the making may have been brought to an unlikely conclusion Thursday. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s investigators say a suspect long under the microscope in a brutal slaying took his own life, as they tried to serve a search warrant at his apartment.
“He was a good guy. Very quiet. Kept to himself,” said Del Coronado Apartments manager Leticia Gonzales.
She says the subject of the search warrant, Stephen Crawford, was in failing health and heavily medicated. She says around 9:30 a.m. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s investigators asked for the keys to unit 185, then ran upstairs. Crawford, a long-time suspect in a cold case, was inside and unwilling to come out.
“They were trying to get in. and trying to talk to him. You could see them through the window trying to get in to open the door,” said Gonzales.
Moments later, she said she heard a muffled gunshot.
“We did the search warrant and the suspect shot and killed himself,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.
Smith said Crawford had been in her department’s cross-hairs since October 1974. He was working as a security guard when he found the body of Arlis Perry. The 19-year-old newlywed and recent Peninsula transplant was found dead inside Stanford’s Memorial Church. Investigators said Perry was stabbed in the head with an ice pick. She had also been beaten and molested. Smith said technological limits at the time couldn’t lead to a case against Crawford. But current advancements in DNA testing did, which produced Thursday’s search warrant, and violent conclusion almost 44 years after the crime.
“This was a brutal homicide it happened in 1974. A year after I started with the department. It’s one all of our cold case homicide detectives have wanted to solve. It’s gratifying to have been able to identify the suspect,” said Smith.
“He acted strangely that morning after he found the body,” said retired newspaper columnist Scott Herhold. “His first words were hey we got a stiff here."
Herhold who reported on the killing back then said he always knew it was an insider. Crawford was at the top of his list.
“If you look at the way she was laid out it was ugly and ritualistic,” said Herhold. “This was done by somebody who would have taken 30 minutes to do this and this is somebody who knows he's not going to be interrupted.”
Arlis Perry’s then-husband, Bruce was cleared of the killing, and moved on with his life earning a doctorate in mental health. Officials with the apartment complex said Stephen Crawford had few family, although we did see an elderly couple apparently related to him. They declined to talk but expressed shock at his apparent suicide.