Officials announced Tuesday that a 75-year-old man has been arrested and charged in the 1982 rape and murder of a teenage girl in California after DNA connected him to the scene.
Stabbing Of Teen Girl Finally Solved With DNA
Karen Stitt Was Just 15 Years Old When She Was Raped And Stabbed 59 Times
Karen Stitt was just 15 years old when she was last seen by her boyfriend when he left her near a Sunnyvale, California, bus stop the night of September 2, 1982, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
According to a criminal complaint, her boyfriend was worried he would get in trouble with his parents for being home late, so he left after watching Karen walk toward the stop.
Gary Ramirez Was Finally Arrested For Her Murder
The next morning, Karen Stitt's body was found near a cinder block wall about 100 yards from the bus stop. Investigators determined she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times, according to a Mercury News story.
The trail went cold for decades until a tip led investigators to Gary Ramirez, who was arrested at his home in Maui, Hawaii, on August 2 and charged with murder, the DA's office said.
Investigators Used DNA From Ramirez's Child To Solve The Case
Investigators were able to connect Ramirez to Stitt's death by comparing a DNA sample from his child to DNA evidence found at the scene of Stitt's murder, according to the complaint.
Ramirez grew up and attended high school in Fresno. He served in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s. After leaving the military, Ramirez frequented or resided in the Bay Area Peninsula, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaii, police said. He does not have a criminal record and mostly lived a normal life after committing such a heinous crime.
Advances In DNA Technology Allowed Police To Rule Out Suspects
Officials started to look more closely at the case when there were advances in DNA analysis, which allowed investigators in 2000 to create a DNA profile of an unknown male suspect using DNA from blood and other samples found at the scene.
The DNA analysis allowed them to officially rule out Stitt's boyfriend as a suspect, but the complaint said the profile did not match anything in available DNA databases. They had to patiently wait until they could get more information to identify a suspect and conduct more testing to know who was responsible for the murder.
Police Finally Got A Tip In 2021 That Lead Them To Look At Gary Ramirez As A Suspect
Police then got a tip in 2021 that Gary Ramirez could be a prime suspect in the unsolved case. It did not indicate what led to the tip about Ramirez's family.
Earlier this year, using a DNA sample obtained from Ramirez's child, a lab concluded there is "very strong statistical support" that the DNA found at the crime scene belonged to Ramirez, the complaint said.
The operation to arrest Ramirez took months of planning and coordinated effort involving Santa Clara County, Maui, and federal law enforcement authorities. It was primarily funded by a grant awarded to the DA's Office in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute cold cases.
In a statement, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said, "DA Rosen: "Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery. The mystery of Karen Stitt's death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective that would never, ever give up."
Anyone with information about Gary Ramirez is encouraged to contact the DA's Office Cold Case Prosecutor Rob Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.