With the help of advanced DNA technology, the investigators of the Sunnyvale cold case announced Tuesday that they have arrested the suspect linked in the murder of 15-year-old student Karen Stitt in September 1982.
“I believe we have a responsibility to these victims no matter how old the case is,” says Det. Matt Hutchison with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.
According to detectives, they arrested Gary Gene Ramirez, 75, on August 2, at his residence in the town of Makawao on the island of Maui.
For nearly four decades, the detectives of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety investigated all potential leads related to the case.
In 2000, a DNA profile was obtained from physical evidence at the crime scene. It was run through the FBI’s national database but there were no matches.
With the new investigative technique known as forensic genealogy, detectives identified Ramirez as the main suspect.
“Basically, what you do is build a family tree. You start with this DNA sample and the genealogist and the detective built out an entire family tree,” said Rob Baker with the Cold Case Unit within the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Ramirez’s DNA has matched the evidence found at the crime scene. He is currently waiting for extradition back to Santa Clara County where he’ll be facing charges of first-degree murder under special circumstances.
According to the district attorney’s website, Stitt moved to the South Bay from Pittsburgh. She went to Palo Alto High in 1982 and frequently rode the El Camino Real bus routes to and from her boyfriend’s in Sunnyvale.
On September 4, 1982, Stitt and her boyfriend were hanging out late and were playing some video games at a 7-Eleven store. Around midnight, they headed toward Golfland, a popular putt-putt course.
Stitt was wearing a leather jacket, striped shirt, pants, and her boyfriend’s baseball hat with a Rush rock band symbol.
The next day, a delivery man found her body thrown over a four-foot wall near the now-gone Honey Bee Restaurant. Stitt was naked and was bounded with her clothing.
She had been stabbed more than 60 times.
“The violent nature of this crime has always led me to believe that there could be other victims out there either before this case or after this case. And so that’s my focus now,” Det. Hutchison said.
The case is still an active investigation. Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to contact Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Detective Matthew Hutchison at 408-730-7100.