The case of

Arlis Perry

Victim

Arlis Perry

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1955-02-22

Victim Age

19

Date Reported

1974-10-13

Date of Death

1974-10-13

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Stanford, California, USA

Body Location

Stanford, California, USA

Date of Conviction

Suspect commited suicide n 2018

Body Discovered Date

1974-10-13

Murderer

Bruce Perry, Stephen Crawford

Who was 19-Year-Old, Arlis Perry?

Born on February 22, 1955, Arlis Kay Perry, originally Arlis Dykema, was a native of North Dakota. While in Bismarck High School, Arlis met and fell in love with Bruce Perry. The couple, committed to each other as can be, were torn when Bruce chose to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, after graduation. After dating long distances for a year, the couple decided they could no longer be apart. Arlis agreed to leave North Dakota and move to Palo Alto. Deeply religious, Arlis couldn’t go and move in with Bruce unwed, so the couple married shortly before her relocation.

When Arlis moved to the Standford campus, she and Bruce shared a dormitory in a building specifically for married couples. Since Arlis was religious, she immediately sought a place of worship. The Standford Memorial Church is where Arlis spent much of her free time while she lived in California. A law firm hired her as a secretary to make extra money for the couple as Bruce continued his medical studies.

Events Leading up to Arlis’s Grisly Murder

On October 12, 1974, at around 11:30 PM, Arlis and Bruce took a late evening stroll around Palo Alto. During the walk, the couple began to argue over their car’s tire pressure. Growing annoyed with Bruce, Arlis decided to take refuge inside the Standford Memorial Church. Bruce readily agreed when Arlis told him she would take time to pray, thinking the couple needed a break for a few minutes.

Arlis walked into the church, and two witnesses remembered seeing her walk to the front pew and take a seat. As the witnesses left the church, Arlis knelt in prayer in front of the church when a young man with blonde hair entered. When the security guard came out a little after midnight to say the church was closing, he said no one was in the church then.

Bruce grew concerned when Arlis hadn’t returned home by 12:15 AM. He knew the church closed at midnight, and their dorm was a short walk from the church. Arlis should have made it home by now. Not wanting to wait at home for her, Bruce left and headed towards the church, searching for Arlis.

When Bruce arrived at the doors of Stanford Memorial Church, they were locked. Bruce walked around campus looking for Arlis or any sign of her, finally calling the police at 3:00 AM to report Arlis missing. Police send an officer to search for the church. The Santa Clara County sheriff’s office said everything seemed okay at Stanford Memorial Church after peeking in. No one was in there. His search wasn’t thorough enough.

Crime Scene Inside Stanford Memorial Church

At 5:45 AM, the night watchman who locked the church doors at midnight returned to unlock them. He later told investigators the side door on the west side of the building was open and looked like someone had kicked it from the inside. As the security guard entered the building, he saw something out of place near the altar at the front of the Stanford Memorial Church. He would make a gruesome discovery.

The body of Arlis Perry lay where she had been praying only hours earlier, nude, beaten, and most horrific of all, her murderer had pierced her skull with an ice pick. Near the east transept, an altar candle stuck out between Arlis’s breast while her sadistic killer inserted another candle into her vagina. Her body looked like it was a part of a satanic ritual.

Suspects in the Arlis Perry Investigation

When the Santa Clara County sheriff’s department arrived to inform Bruce Perry they had found Arlis’s body, he answered the front door covered in blood. He was their prime suspect immediately. The blood ended up being Bruce’s, who suffered from severe nosebleeds in stressful situations. After Bruce passed a polygraph exam, the detectives officially ruled him out as a suspect.

With Bruce officially cleared as the primary suspect, the homicide unit had no idea where to look next in their search for Arlis’s murderer. A medical examiner, although Arlis’s murder looked like a ritualistic crime by a sexual deviant despite the candle inside her, she had not been sexually assaulted. During their investigation of the church, authorities found a DNA sample on a pillow near Arlis’s body.

Another critical piece of evidence the Santa Clara County investigators uncovered during their search of the heinous crime was the palm print of the killer on the candle inside her body. The palm print did not match Bruce or the security guard who found Arlis’s body that morning. The medical examiner determined Arlis’s time of death to be around midnight. If that is her correct time of death, Arlis was in the church with her murderer when Bruce knocked, looking for her.

Son of Sam Theory

Convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, mentioned Arlis’s name in letters he wrote. In 1976 David Berkowitz pled guilty to eight murders in New York. Once David mailed police in North Dakota a letter mentioning Arlis’s name and referencing he knew more about the case. Theories and rumors spread that Arlis was going to a cult meeting that night.

David claimed he had joined a satanic cult in the 1970s and knew the murderer of Arlis personally. Whether or not David had any connection to a satanic cult is still under determination but what is known for sure is detectives solved Arlis’s murder in 2018 with DNA.

Arlis Perry’s 44-Year-Old Case Solved in 2018

Arlis’s case file sat atop a shelf growing colder by the day for a long time. Despite the investigator’s efforts over decades. Bruce continued his studies and became a successful psychiatrist publishing many books. He had long been cleared as a suspect in Arlis’s murder since neither his DNA nor the partial palm print matched those at the crime scene.

Stephen Blake Crawford, the security guard who discovered Arlis’s body on the morning of October 12, 1974, eventually lost his job at Stanford University after he stole memorabilia like statues of horses from the school during the 1970s. Despite the theft in the 1970s, Stephen didn’t get caught and arrested until 1992. After a crime lab found the Golden State Killer in 2018, investigators thought technology had come far enough to test the DNA evidence found near Arlis’s body.

The DNA sample matched former campus security guard Stephen Blake Crawford when the results came back. Steve Crawford was not the primary suspect in this horrific crime. Investigators went to his apartment to serve a search warrant. They also said they wanted to talk to him about Arlis Perry’s murder, and Stephen told them he needed to get dressed before letting them in. He lived in the same house in the Palo Alto area for many years, and they assumed evidence might be there.

Officers grew suspicious when Stephen still hadn’t come to the door after minutes. Armed with the search warrant, the investigators ended Stephen’s home and found the man sitting on his bed with a gun to his head. A gunshot ricochets off the house’s walls as officers dash from the bedroom and out of the home.

Although Stephen Blake Crawford left a suicide note behind, he didn’t mention Arlis Perry’s murder or any other unsolved crime. Police officers deemed Arlis’s murder closed but wondered if Stephen was responsible for other campus murders at Stanford in the 1970s. Without Steve Crawford here to answer the question as to why Arlis had to go through such a brutal assault will probably never be known.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Arlis Perry’s husband remarry?

Arlis Perry’s husband, Bruce Perry, has remarried. Bruce Perry’s now a  renowned psychiatrist and author.

Who is Stephen Blake Crawford?

Pieces of DNA evidence named Stephen Blake Crawford as the murderer of 19-year-old Arlis Perry.

How old was Arlis Perry?

19-year-old Arlis Perry was murdered in the Stanford Univ church.

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