Cold case connection: same man now charged with two 1970's murders

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A Hayward man who was arrested last fall for murdering a 21-year-old woman in the hills above Stanford University in 1973 is now facing charges for fatally strangling the daughter of a former Stanford athletic director in 1974, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

John Arthur Getreu, 74, has been charged with murder in the strangulation death of Janet Ann Taylor, a 21-year-old woman who went missing after setting out to hitchhike from a friend's house on the Stanford campus to her home in La Honda in March of 1974.  

Her body was found in a roadside ditch on Sand Hill Road in San Mateo County a day later. Taylor is the daughter of former Stanford athletic director and football coach Chuck Taylor. Two years ago, investigators reopened the case and matched DNA found on the young woman’s clothing to Getreu. 

“Our investigation into John Getreu revealed that he had been connected to the Palo Alto area during the time both Janet Taylor and Leslie Perlov were murdered,” the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office said in a statement Thursday.

Investigators also learned Getreu had been tried in court in the 1960s for a rape and death of a 16-year-old girl in Germany, and convicted of raping another woman in Santa Clara County in 1975.  

"There is a commitment with the DA office's in both counties to expedite the cases as quickly as we can. Obviously the clock is ticking. Mr. Getreu has not been held to account for decades for these crimes," said San Mateo Assistant District Attorney Sean Gallagher.

Taylor's family on Thursday thanked investigators for their work investigating and making an arrest in the cold case. They also reflected on a life cut short. 

"Janet's future was bright," Taylor's family wrote in a statement released by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. "It would have been wonderful to see what she would have done. We can't ever know all that we missed, but whatever she pursued, Janet would have served others with passion and kindness."

Getreu was already in custody Thursday after being arrested in November and later charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney in the 1973 killing of Stanford graduate and librarian Leslie Perlov.

On Feb. 13 1973, the 21-year-old left her job at a law library in Palo Alto and, for an unknown reason, drove her orange Chevrolet Nova to an old quarry near Page Mill Road and Old Page Mill Road, not far away. 

A sheriff’s deputy on horseback found Perlov's body under an oak tree in the foothills above the Stanford campus three days later. 

The medical examiner determined Perlov's cause of death was strangulation by ligature. Authorities later said she may have been strangled with her own turtleneck sweater. 

A suspect was not located in Perlov's slaying until 2018, when investigators submitted numerous items of DNA evidence to a lab. The lab entered the DNA profile of the unknown killer into a public genealogy website, and a relative of Getreu was identified as a possible link.

Getreu was identified as a suspect and was later arrested after investigators secretly got a sample of his DNA, officials said.  

KTVU spoke to Diane Perlov, Perlov’s younger sister, last November after investigators informed her of Getreu's arrest in connection to her sister’s murder.  

"I've been waiting for this call for 45 years, and now that it came, I'm just a bit stunned," she said at the time. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about Leslie in some way. She was my big sister, always looking out for me. She was, and remains always with me."

Getreu has not yet entered a plea in either case. He is currently being held without bail and was expected to be arraigned in the Taylor case on Thursday.