DNA evidence helps link Hawaii man to teen's 1982 murder in Sunnyvale: police

A four-decades-old cold-case murder mystery is finally solved, according to a South Bay law enforcement agency that announced Tuesday the arrest of a suspect thousands of miles away.

"To me, it was a relay race of sorts. A lot of people carried the baton at different points. And it was my turn at the end," said Detective Matt Hutchinson of the Sunnyvale Dept. of Public Safety.

For the 38-year-old Hutchinson, who grew up in Sunnyvale, the mysterious death of Karen Stitt was a who-done-it he was determined to solve.

The 15-year-old Stitt disappeared after being dropped at a bus stop on Sept. 3, 1982.

Later the same day, a delivery driver found her naked body in bushes near El Camino Real and Wolfe Road. The area has changed since the crime occurred, but the questions surrounding it remained.

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"I believe we have a responsibility to these victims no matter how cold the case is, to never give up," said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, who’s younger than the crime he investigated, linked with the Santa Clara County Cold Case Unit. DNA evidence at the scene was used to initiate a genealogy tree and search.

"It took a couple of years to do it, but ultimately they came up with these four brothers. The genealogist said it’s one of the sons of this woman who lives in Fresno," said  Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Bob Baker who works in the cold case unit.

August 2, nearly 40 years after the murder, Sunnyvale detectives flew to Hawaii and arrested Gary Ramirez. They said the 75-year-old sexually assaulted Karen, then killed her, and has been hiding in plain sight ever since.

"Karen was a tomboy who grew into a lovely young woman. She could have been anything. We will never know because Gary Ramirez stole her life," Karen's aunt, Robin Stitt Morris,wrote in an email to KTVU. "With this closure, we hope to be able to move forward in a positive way."

Officials said the emergence of DNA technology allowed detectives to link blood found at the scene to Ramirez, and make an arrest.

"I don’t believe my work is done just because Gary is in a jail in Maui. If there’s any possibility that he harmed anyone else, I want to know," said Hutchinson.

He believes Ramirez may have committed other crimes and asks anyone with information to contact Sunnyvale DPS.

Ramirez faces an extradition hearing Wednesday in Hawaii. Detectives said he’s indicating he’ll fight extradition, but they’re confident he’ll be back in Santa Clara County to answer for his alleged crime soon.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv