comscore DNA leads to arrest of Maui man in 1982 California killing | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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DNA leads to arrest of Maui man in 1982 California killing

  • COURTESY MAUI POLICE DEPARTMENT
                                Gary Ramirez

    COURTESY MAUI POLICE DEPARTMENT

    Gary Ramirez

A 75-year-old Makawao man has been arrested and charged for the alleged murder, kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old Palo Alto girl in a case that has been unsolved since 1982.

Gary Ramirez was arrested last Tuesday at his home in Makawao and charged for the death of Karen Stitt, who was last seen walking toward a bus stop in Sunnyvale, Calif., by her boyfriend on the evening of Sept. 2, 1982, the Santa Clara Office of the District Attorney said in a news release today.

The next morning a delivery truck driver found her naked body about 100 yards from the bus stop in the bushes behind a blood-stained cinder block wall, the DA’s office said. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times, and the killer left blood and body fluid on her body. She had been stabbed in her chest, neck, abdomen and back.

There had been no extensive leads in the case until Ramirez was arrested.

“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” DA Jeff Rosen said in the news release. “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.”

On the day Stitt went missing, she had taken a bus from Palo Alto to Sunnyvale to visit her boyfriend. Around midnight, the couple walked to a bus stop in the area of El Camino Real and Wolfe Road so Stitt could take a bus back home.

After her death, Stitt’s boyfriend was long considered a suspect in the case, but he was cleared based on DNA evidence.

In 2019 Sunnyvale police detective Matt Hutchison was tipped that Stitt had been killed by one of four brothers from Fresno, Calif. The investigation, which included the review of public records and social media profiles and a tested blood sample from one of Ramirez’s relatives, led Hutchinson in April of this year to determine that the blood and body fluid found at the crime scene belonged to Ramirez.

Ramirez grew up and attended high school in Fresno and served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s. After that he had frequented or lived in the Bay Area, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado and Hawaii.

Anyone with information about Gary Ramirez is encouraged to contact the DA’s Office Cold Case Prosecutor Rob Baker at rbaker@dao.sccgov.org.

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