Alleged serial killer pleads not guilty in 1973 murder case

Former Palo Alto resident John Arthur Getreu, 75, is suspected of murdering Leslie Marie Perlov

A former Stanford Hospital medical technician pleaded not guilty on Monday morning for the 1973 murder of a 21-year-old Stanford University graduate.

Wheelchaired into the Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, John Arthur Getreu, 75, entered his plea in the case of Leslie Marie Perlov, making this his second not-guilty plea to a homicide this year. In June, he pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Janet Ann Taylor, whose body was found on March 25, 1974 in San Mateo County on Stanford University lands.

Both once cold cases, the mystery behind the deaths of Taylor and Perlov only began to unravel last fall when DNA samples taken from Perlov's body were submitted to a public genealogical website by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office investigators.

Using similar methods that helped identify the alleged infamous "Golden State Killer," Joseph James DeAngelo, investigators were able to match the samples to Getreu's DNA, leading to the former Palo Altan's arrest on Nov. 20, 2018. He was charged with strangulation murder by Santa Clara County prosecutors six days later.

After Getreu's arrest, San Mateo County sheriff's investigators submitted Taylor's clothing, including a pair of torn, green corduroy pants, for DNA testing, which also proved a match with Gertreu's DNA. He was arraigned for Taylor's murder on May 16 and entered his plea one month later.

Perlov was a Stanford graduate and a clerk at the North County Law Library in Palo Alto before her body was found on Feb. 16, 1973, under an oak tree in the Stanford foothills with a scarf tightly tied around her neck. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coronor's Office determined she was strangled with a ligature. Police did not identify any motives or primary suspects beyond a blond man who was seen near Perlov's car before she went missing.

Four decades later, following significant developments in DNA genealogy and databases, cold-case investigators were able to use DNA samples to identify Getreu as the alleged killer.

On Nov. 26, 2018, Getreu appeared for his arraignment at the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where Diane Perlov, sister of the murder victim, requested the court withhold Getreu's bail and provided a statement inside a packed courtroom.

"The scarf tied around her neck that day was mine. I cannot walk alone in the woods. After work, I will not walk through the deserted parking garage. I won't let anyone touch my neck. These things have become second nature to me," Diane Perlov said.

Prior to his 2018 arrest, Getreu was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 1963 rape and murder of 16-year-old Margaret Williams in Germany when he was 18 years old. It is unclear how many years of the sentence he served.

In 1975, he was accused of raping a 17-year-old Palo Alto teen inside her parents' home. Getreu pleaded to statutory rape and was sentenced to six months in jail, with five months suspended.

Although arrested for Perlov's murder before Taylor's, Getreu did not enter a plea in the Perlov case in a July 15 court hearing at the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


2 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm

Gary is a registered user.

In 1975, this apparent rapist-murderer received a month in county jail for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old - pleaded down to a "statutory rape." Don't blame Judge Persky.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


To post your comment, please login or register at the top of the page. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Su Hong 2.0? Former waiter reopens Chinese standby under new name in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 5,809 views

What gives you hope?
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 2,475 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,457 views


The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.