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Man arrested for murder 40 years later thanks to DNA evidence

Man arrested for murder 40 years later thanks to DNA evidence

Gary Ramirez, 75, was arrested by police last week on suspicion of murdering 15-year-old Karen Stitt

A man in Hawaii has been arrested after DNA technology linked him to murder in northern California 40 years ago.

Gary Ramirez, 75, was arrested by police last week on suspicion of murder 15-year-old Karen Stitt, who was waiting for a bus in Sunnyvale in the early hours of 3 September 1982 when she disappeared – her naked body discovered among bushes 100 yards away. 

Karen Stitt.
Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

Investigators say Ramirez’s DNA matched that of blood from Stitt’s leather jacket, and on the 4ft wall where her body was dumped after being stabbed 59 times. 

A press release from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said: “Beginning in early 2019, Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison used a tip to determine that Karen Stitt’s killer was likely one of four brothers from Fresno.

"In late April 2022, Gary Ramirez was identified as the likely source of blood and bodily fluid left at the Karen Stitt crime scene.

"The Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab confirmed that identification last week.” 

Hutchison said that, when he arrested Ramirez, all the shocked suspect could say was: “Oh my gosh.” 

Gary Ramirez, date unknown.

Stitt had been to visit her boyfriend, who walked her to the bus stop so that she could travel home – running back to his house so as not to get in trouble for breaking curfew. 

Her body was found the next morning, with the killer leaving behind traces of their blood and bodily fluid. 

Despite an ‘extensive investigation’ at the time, there were no significant leads for Stitt’s murder for decades. 

District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “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.” 

According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Ramirez grew up in Fresno, California, and served in the US Air Force in the early 70s before frequenting or residing in the Bay Area Peninsula, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaii.   

Ramirez was arrested last week.
Maui Police Department

Police say the retired bug exterminator had no criminal record, while his older brother Rudy Ramirez telling The Mercury News that his sibling ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’. 

“I’ve never seen him violent or get angry ever,” he said. 

Ramirez has been incarcerated in a Maui jail as he awaits an extradition hearing today (Wednesday 10 August) to bring him to California. 

Once extradited, Ramirez will be arraigned on murder, kidnapping and rape charges. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.

Featured Image Credit: Maui Police Department/Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

Topics: US News