Her Naked Body Was Found by a Bus Stop 40 Years Ago. Cops Now Know Who Did It.

·3-min read
Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office
Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office

The last time Karen Stitt was seen alive was Sept. 2, 1982. She’d spent the evening in Sunnyvale, California, with her boyfriend—at a mini golf course and playing video games at a 7-Eleven.

Stitt hung out until near midnight, when it was time for her to catch a late-night bus back to her home in Palo Alto, about 10 miles away. But after her boyfriend dropped her off near the bus stop—as he was in a rush to get home before curfew—Stitt was abducted, raped, and stabbed at least 60 times. Her naked body was left abandoned by a cinderblock wall 100 feet from the bus stop, her wrists tied behind her back by her own shirt, court documents say.

For nearly four decades, California authorities struggled to solve her murder. There were no suspects and few clues that might lead detectives to identifying one.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Karen Stitt was just 15 when she was brutally murdered on her way home from a date night with her boyfriend in 1982. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office</div>

Karen Stitt was just 15 when she was brutally murdered on her way home from a date night with her boyfriend in 1982.

Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office

But justice for Stitt’s loved ones may have finally arrived this week, as the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that the teen’s accused killer has been arrested in Hawaii.

Gary Ramirez, 75, was taken into custody at his home on Maui last week. He now faces murder, kidnapping, and rape charges, says a criminal complaint affidavit filed in California.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Gary Ramirez in 1979, three years before the death of Karen Stitt. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office</div>

Gary Ramirez in 1979, three years before the death of Karen Stitt.

Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office

“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a 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.”

That detective, Matthew Hutchison, received a tip in 2021 that “a son of Rose Aguilera Ramirez” killed Stitt, and began tracking down all four of her sons, court documents say. He used newspaper notices of family obituaries, online census databases and Facebook posts to locate the family members.

Hutchinson whittled the four brothers down to Gary Ramirez and one other as potential suspects. Next, the detective found Ramirez’s grandchild on Facebook and received their DNA to test against blood and other bodily fluids recovered at the scene of Stitt’s murder.

That DNA, which was sent to a lab in April, came back as a match last week, with Gary Ramirez as the suspected killer.

Local officials in Santa Clara County and Maui teamed up with federal law enforcement to find Ramirez and take him into custody on Aug. 2.

Ramirez, who officials say is an Air Force veteran, now faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

The operation was mostly funded by a grant awarded to by the U.S. Department of Justice last year to investigate cold cases, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office said.

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