Hawaii man arrested for Karen Stitt murder in California

Northern California officials have arrested a 75-year-old Hawaiian man in connection with the rape and murder of a teenager in Sunnyvale nearly 40 years ago, using forensic pedigree to zero the suspect down from his family tree.

Gary Ramirez was arrested on August 2 at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, at his home in Macawao on the island of Maui. said on tuesday, Once extradited, he would be charged with rape and kidnapping in special circumstances, as well as manslaughter while being armed with a dangerous or lethal weapon during a felony.

15-year-old Karen Stitt from Palo Alto was last seen on the night of September 2, 1982. She and her 17-year-old boyfriend met at 7-Eleven shortly before 9 p.m., walked to a miniature golf course and continued at Ponderosa Elementary School, according to a statement from Sunnyvale Det. Matthew Hutchison.

Hutchison’s statement was included in the documents documenting the charges filed against Ramirez. Stitt’s then boyfriend could not be identified.

Hutchison said that around midnight, Stitt’s boyfriend took her back from school to the area near the convenience store so she could take the bus to Palo Alto.

According to the statement, the boyfriend “later told the police that he felt bad about leaving her alone, but didn’t want to get into trouble with his parents for coming home late.”

Hutchison said that at about 10:45 the next morning, a truck driver found what he thought was a woman’s naked body lying in the bushes at the base of a cinderblock retaining wall along the driveway of Woolworth Garden Center, where she was making a delivery. Had been. ,

Stitt’s wrist was found with his shirt tied behind his back, his jacket tied around his left ankle, and a blood smear was found on the cinderblock wall just above his body.

Hutchison said a medical examiner found that he had been stabbed 59 times in the neck, chest, abdomen and back. The cause of his death was found to be “stabbing in the chest and neck”.

Stitt’s body was found about 100 yards from the bus stop, Hutchison said, and investigators found leaves and dirt around his legs were smothered and kicked, “suggesting that She was still alive when her body was taken there.”

An extensive investigation was not able to identify a suspect, and the case remained cold for 20 years.

By 2000, DNA analysis techniques allowed investigators to build a suspect’s genetic profile from a sample taken from a blood stain on the cinderblock wall above the stitch, Hutchison said. Swabs taken from the scene, as well as items collected from Stitt’s body, were also sent to the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory.

Investigators found that DNA from an unidentified man taken from samples on the wall matched DNA found on Stit’s jacket and sperm cells found on a vaginal slide taken during his autopsy.

The detective said the DNA sample of Stitt’s boyfriend at the time did not match, and was excluded as a suspect. Comparison of the unknown profile with the National DNA Crime Database found no matches.

Hutchison said that in 2021, he received a tip that a male member of the Ramirez family may have killed Stitt while starting his genealogy search.

According to the detective’s statement, US census records and other public databases showed that the family lived in Fresno, about 160 miles from Sunnyvale, in the early 1950s.

Hutchison found that there were four surviving Ramirez brothers; Further investigation ruled out two brothers, and he was not able to conclusively rule out a third, allowing him to focus his attention on Gary Ramirez.

In early March, Hutchison used social media to identify Ramirez’s daughter, and he “obtained a sample” of her DNA on April 8. Court documents did not explain how the detective got the sample.

Investigators found “very strong statistical support” for binding Ramirez’s daughter’s DNA to unidentified male DNA from the Stitt crime scene, the detective said, establishing Ramirez as the prime suspect.

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