Arrest in 1970s cold-case murder points to serial killer

Charged last year in Stanford Dish murder, John Arthur Getreu to make first court appearance for death of Janet Ann Taylor this afternoon

Editor's note: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence.

Nearly six months after a Hayward man was charged in another murder that had gone unsolved for decades, DNA evidence has led investigators to accuse him of the 1974 killing of a 21-year-old woman near the Stanford University campus, San Mateo County sheriff's investigators announced today.

John Arthur Getreu, 74, of Hayward, will be arraigned today for the death of Janet Ann Taylor, whose body was found by a delivery driver on March 25, 1974 off the side of the road Sand Hill Road and Manzanita Road, property owned by Stanford. Taylor was the daughter of former Stanford Athletic Director Chuck Taylor.

The night before, she was hitchhiking home to La Honda from a friend's house in Palo Alto, that last time anyone saw her, San Mateo County Assistant Sheriff Gregory Rothaus said at a press conference Thursday morning in Redwood City.

The coroner's office determined her death was a homicide by strangulation and concluded she wasn't raped, but investigators determined there was a "sexual motivation" behind the alleged crime based on Getreu's criminal history, according to Rothaus.

Getreu is the same man who was arrested for the murder of Leslie Marie Perlov, a Stanford University graduate who was last seen on Feb. 13, 1973 and found three days later under an oak tree in an area known now known as The Dish. Getreu was arrested on Nov. 20, 2018 and has yet to enter a plea in that case.

After Getreu's arrest, San Mateo County sheriff's investigators submitted additional items to the county crime lab, including Taylor's clothing with DNA that was a match for Getreu.

The sheriff's office sent its case to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office on May 10 and subsequently an arrest warrant was issued for Getreu, who is currently in custody in San Mateo County jail.

What's known of Getreu's past

Rothaus stated that Getreu was previously convicted of the rape and murder in Germany when he was a young man and also convicted in Santa Clara County for a 1975 rape.

Getreu had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 1963 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl while living in Germany with his father, a U.S. Army officer, according to The Newark Advocate newspaper in Ohio, where the Getreus once lived. The girl was the daughter of the chaplain of the Army's 8th Infantry Division.

"I am deeply sorry for her parents, and if I could do something to bring her back, I would do it," a 19-year-old Getreu said in court.

Because he was a foreigner and considered a juvenile under German law, the court said that he could be released on parole after serving two years and allowed to return to the United States, the 1964 article stated.

By 1972, Getreu was employed as a security guard by California Plant Protection Services of Palo Alto. That August, he was credited with having chased off potential arsonists at a Redwood City industrial plant, according to an article in the San Mateo Times. The Redwood City fire inspector told the Times that Getreu claimed he'd arrived at the plant at 10 p.m. and found an open door and kerosene poured on a pile of paper and several wooden matches on the floor. Desks and cabinets had also been rifled through, the inspector said, but nothing of value had been taken, the article stated. The three teens that Getreu said he'd scared away were never found.

In pursuing the Perlov case last year, investigators submitted multiple pieces of evidence for DNA examination, which found "an unknown male DNA profile." That sample was sent in July 2018 to Parabon NanoLab for further evaluation, Santa Clara County sheriff's officials said last year. The Virginia-based DNA technology company developed a profile based on the sample and sent it to a public genetic genealogy database that matched it with Getreu based on the DNA of his relatives. Investigators obtained DNA samples from the Hayward man that were sent to the county crime laboratory for further testing, sheriff's officials said.

On Nov. 9, 2018, the lab found the new DNA from Getreu matched the DNA samples gathered from the crime scene. According to the lab report, "the probability that a random, unrelated individual could be included as a possible contributor to this deduced profile was approximately 1 (in) 65 septillion."

Getreu is scheduled to make his first court appearance in the Taylor case this afternoon in San Mateo County Superior Court, after which time he'll return to Santa Clara County's custody.

The deaths of Taylor and Perlov are two of four cold-case murders at Stanford that took place on or near campus between 1973 and 1974. Over the past 10 months, suspects have been located in three of the four cases. View this map to see their proximity to one another.

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

Related content:

Sheriff investigating whether Stanford watchman linked to other campus murders

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2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2019 at 6:08 am

Letting the 18byr old go, as happened in Germany might have given him the message that there is no decent punishment for crime

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