Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office detectives say they have solved the 1974 cold-case campus homicide of 19-year old Arlis Perry. Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a press conference Thursday evening that police have evidence that the killer was Stephen Crawford, the security guard who claimed to have discovered the body.

The body of Arlis Perry is wheeled to a vehicle by Santa Clara County officials. 10-13-1974

The body of Arlis Perry is wheeled away from Memorial Church by Santa Clara County officials on Oct. 13, 1974. (Image credit: Chuck Painter)

On Oct. 13, 1974, the body of Perry, who was married to a Stanford student, was found in Memorial Church. Calling the crime “callous and cold,” Smith said detectives were able to break the case through new DNA evidence from Perry’s clothing that linked Crawford to the crime.

We finally have closure,” Smith said, adding that she had always taken the case really personally.”

“We extend our gratitude to local law enforcement for their efforts over decades to resolve this disturbing case,” said Lisa Lapin, vice president for university communications. “It remains a heart-wrenching memory at the university. Stanford has been cooperating with investigators over many years, and we know they’ve been working tirelessly to bring this case to a conclusion.”

Crawford killed himself yesterday in San Jose. Smith said Crawford was always considered a person of interest in the case and was aware he was a suspect. Detectives questioned Crawford through the four decades the crime went unsolved and were serving him with a search warrant when he took his own life in his apartment.

According to a statement released by the San Jose Police Department, “During the execution of the search warrant, sheriff’s deputies made verbal contact at a closed front door with an occupant in the apartment. As deputies made entry, they observed an adult male with a handgun, and the deputies immediately backed away. A short time later a gunshot was heard. No deputies discharged their weapons. Deputies eventually entered the residence and discovered an adult male with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The male was pronounced deceased at the scene. No one else was present or injured.”

Detectives continue to search Crawford’s apartment for further evidence, Smith said.

Perry was a receptionist with a Palo Alto law firm, and her husband was a sophomore pre-medical student at Stanford at the time of her death, according to a story published in the university’s Campus Report at the time of the killing.

According to the story, Perry’s body, nude from the waist down, was found inside Memorial Church at 5:45 a.m. by Crawford, a campus security guard who had locked up the church six hours earlier. There was no sign of forced entry to the building and no evidence of a major struggle. The Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner reported at the time that Perry died around midnight of a knife wound in the back of her head.

At the time, Stanford University offered a $10,000 reward for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Perry’s death.