A 75-year-old Hawaiian man has been arrested in connection with the 40-year-old cold case murder of a 15-year-old girl who was raped and stabbed 59 times in Palo Alto, California, after police found him DNA to blood on learning the victim’s jacket.
The Santa Clara County Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that Gary Gene Ramirez had been arrested in Hawaii in connection with the gruesome murder of Karen Stitt, the teen who was raped and stabbed at a bus stop in Northern California.
Ramirez was arrested at his home in Makawao, Maui, on Aug. 2, and will face charges of murder, kidnapping and rape once he is extradited to Santa Clara County.
His next court date in the extradition trial is Wednesday; if convicted, he faces a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Stitt was murdered on the night of September 2, 1982, near a bus stop in Sunnyvale. She was last seen by her teenage boyfriend at the stop after they went for a walk together.
Karen Stitt was 15 years old visiting her boyfriend when she was brutally murdered late at night at a California bus stop
Gary Gene Ramirez, pictured above, about 40 years ago, has been arrested in connection with the murder and charged with murder, kidnapping and rape
Stitt was visiting her 17-year-old boyfriend in Sunnyvale after taking the bus from her home in Palo Alto. The two took a casual stroll through his neighborhood before breaking up.
Stitt’s boyfriend said he was concerned he would be placed under house arrest for missing his midnight curfew, so he went home after seeing her walking to the bus stop.
Her body was left naked behind a bloodstained wall of cinder blocks and was found the next morning by truck driver Steven Bound; Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety was eventually called.
Officers responding to the scene found Stitt naked with her wrists tied behind her back with her shirt and jacket tied around her ankle.
Medical researcher Dr. Angelo Ozoa concluded that she had been violently stabbed 59 times in the neck, chest, abdomen and back.
According to the report, Stitt was stabbed 18 times in the heart, she had 10 stab wounds to her lungs, wounds to her neck pierced her larynx, windpipe and esophagus.
Kicked leaves and disturbances in the dirt at the scene indicated Stitt was still alive when her body was left at the scene.
A current view of the corner in Sunnyvale, California, where Karen Stitt was murdered in 1982
Although the killer’s blood and body fluids were found on Stitt’s body, police had no clues as to who the killer might be for decades — until he received a tip about the killer’s identity in 2021.
Detective Matt Hutchison used the tip to determine that Karen’s killer was one of four brothers from Fresno, about a three-hour drive from Sunnyvale.
In 2021, the genealogist identified the perpetrator as one of four brothers, but could not say which one. Then the detective began traditional investigative work to find out which of the four brothers was the source of the evidence at the crime scene,” said Deputy District Attorney Robert Baker.
That traditional investigative work led Hutchison to track down Ramirez’s relatives through obituaries, social media posts and databases.
Ramirez was caught after a tip in 2021 led detectives to his family, allowing authorities to take a DNA sample and link it to the blood found at the crime scene.
He eventually used Facebook to find the grandchild of one of the brothers, and on April 8 of this year, Hutchison was able to obtain a sample of that grandchild’s DNA.
The DNA sample led to Ramirez being identified as the killer after a 1982 match for the blood and body fluid left behind at the crime scene.
Hutchison said that when he arrested Ramirez, the man was so shocked that he could hardly say more than just ‘Oh my god.’
Ramirez grew up in Fresno and regularly visited or lived in various areas along the West Coast, including the Bay Area, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaii.
Ramirez, a former insect killer, had no criminal record, according to police.
Stitt was stabbed 18 times in the heart, had 10 stab wounds to her lungs, and the wounds to her neck had pierced her larynx, trachea and esophagus
His brother, Rudy Ramirez, told PaloAltoOnline that he was shocked by his brothers’ arrest, saying, “I can’t believe he would do that. It’s unbelievable that all this has happened.’
“I’ve never seen him violent or angry,” Ramirez’s brother said. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“Behind every old homicide file in every major police station is a person, a heartbreak and a mystery,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement.
“The mystery of Karen’s death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective who would never give up,” he continued.
Hutchison said that when he opened the DNA match email to the killer, he “wanted to scream, but I can’t because I didn’t want to wake the hotel.”
The detective said he then opened a photo of Stitt and said to her, “We did it.”