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Murder at Memorial Church remains unsolved 40 years later
Forty years ago this weekend, 19-year-old Arlis Perry's body was found in Memorial Church. The murder still has not been solved. (VERONICA CRUZ/The Stanford Daily)

Murder at Memorial Church remains unsolved 40 years later

In the late afternoon sun of October, Memorial Church is a quiet place. The sun percolates through the bright stained glass windows, engulfing the building from the tiles to the rafters in serenity and silence. It seems almost impossible that one of the worst crimes in Stanford history took place within its stone walls 40 years ago.

On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 13, 1974, security guard Steve Crawford opened the door to the church at approximately 5:45 a.m. and discovered the body of Arlis Perry at the rear of Memorial Church’s east transept, near the altar (“Stanford student’s wife found slain in church,” Oct. 14, 1974).

Investigators determined that Arlis, 19, the wife of then-sophomore Bruce Perry, died by a blow from an ice pick to the back of the head. Found nude from the waist down, she had been molested with a three-foot candlestick. Another candlestick had been pushed up her blouse. She had also been beaten.

 

Behind locked doors

Arlis Perry was originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, and had moved to Stanford two months earlier to live with her husband. They lived together in Quillen Hall in Escondido Village, and Arlis was working at the law firm of Spaeth, Blase, Valentine and Klein. At around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 12, Bruce and Arlis were walking on the Stanford campus when they got into an argument about their car’s tire pressure, according to a book, “The Ultimate Evil, by journalist Maury Terry, a former New York Post reporter. Shortly thereafter, Arlis told Bruce that she wanted to pray alone in Memorial Church. They parted ways, and Arlis entered the church shortly before midnight, as described in the sheriff’s report. According to the security guard Crawford, he closed the church at a little after midnight. Crawford told investigators that he found all the doors locked when he later checked the church at around 2 a.m.

At approximately 3 a.m., Bruce, concerned with the fact his wife hadn’t come home yet, called the Stanford police and reported his wife as missing. Stanford police went to the church and once again reportedly found all the outer doors locked, according to Terry’s book.

When Crawford came to open the church Sunday morning, he saw that the door on the west side of the church was open. It had been forced from the inside.

 

The investigation

According to Terry’s book, officers arrived at the crime scene after Crawford raised the alarm. They quickly went to see Bruce Perry, who they later conducted a polygraph test on.

Two pieces of identifying evidence were recovered from the scene. The first was a DNA sample, which was found in the form of semen near the body. The second was a palm print that was found on one of the candles.

This evidence did not match either Crawford or Bruce Perry and no match was found to the palm print in the immediate aftermath of the crime. The authorities also saw no connection between the murder of Arlis Perry and the murder of three other people on the Stanford campus over the past two years. (“Police Find No Evidence To Link Campus Killings,” Oct. 14, 1974.)

Forty years later, the case remains unsolved. According to Sergeant Kurtis Stenderup of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the case remains an “open, active investigation.” Stenderup said that new technology can be used to analyze older evidence, and said that evidence from the Perry case has recently been, is being or will be analyzed by their crime lab. Anyone with information about the case should call (408) 808-4431 to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s anonymous tip line.

 

Conspiracy theorists suspect satanist involvement

Terry, among others, has proposed that the death of Arlis Perry was perhaps not the work of a lone killer but of a satanic cult. Terry articulates this theory in his book “The Ultimate Evil,” which suggests that a satanic cult killed Perry on the instructions of Satanists from Bismarck, North Dakota. Various conspiracy theorists believe that Perry’s body was arranged in such a way that it was part of a satanic ritual.

Terry also speculates that David Berkowitz, the convicted serial killer in the “Son of Sam” cases, knows about the conspiracy. In 1979, Berkowitz sent a book to authorities in North Dakota in which, in the margin, he apparently wrote, “Arlis Perry, hunted, stalked and slain, followed to California, Stanford Univ.” Subsequent to his conviction, Berkowitz announced in 1993 that he was not the only person involved in the string of New York murders he was accused of committing. Berkowitz was interviewed by law enforcement but no arrests were made as a result of the interview.

According to Terry’s book, a young man entered Memorial Church shortly before it closed for the night on Oct. 12, 1974. He may have seen the man responsible for the crime enter the church. A valuable witness could still be out there today, unless he was the murderer, in which case the killer might still be on the loose after all these years.

 

Contact Caleb Smith at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith '17 is a Desk Editor from Oakland, California and is majoring in public policy. Outside the Daily, Caleb is Director of news at KZSU Stanford, the campus radio station. Have a tip or suggestion? Please contact him at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • andreaallennyc

    I was a Stanford student at the time … I remember it vividly.
    I didn’t know the crime had never been solved. Such a tragedy in itself; worse that it hasn’t been solved.
    Very good article. Thanks for writing it.

  • Renvellyn

    Everyone is speculating and under the impression that everything Santa Clara Sheriff’s dept could do was done. I AM HERE TO TELL YOU IT WASN’T! 40 years ago I was 22 years old. I encountered a self proclaimed priest in Berkeley, Ca one hour away from Stanford Campus only two short weeks after Arlis was murdered. If I had been alone I know this priest would have harmed me or worse. He owned a church, and he had told me to come there two hours after meeting him. I realized later that was so he and his blonde headed lover could get the church ready for the ritual of harming me. There were 7 statues of Mary and none of Jesus. There was a huge room with a bed in it and 7 chairs in a semi-circle around the bed and over the chairs each had a different coat and each coat was folded exactly alike. There were what seemed like dozen’s of 3 foot long candles burning all over the building. There was a bust of the devil over the bed.
    This priest was mid to late 20’s with brown hair just past the ears. The lover was early 20’s with hair the same length but blonde.

    There is a lot more to this story, and the similarities are shocking. My ex-husband and I went to Stanford Police and filed a report with then Lieutenant Walt Konar. This lieutenant gave that report over to Santa Clara’s Sheriff’s department. Lieutenant Konar died less than 10 years later from Multiple Sclerosis. They never looked at what happened to us. They did not do it for one reason only what happened to us happened in Berkeley and Alameda County. Had they looked at this at all it would have meant turning the entire case over to Alameda/Berkeley jurisdiction. Instead they have never let go of ownership of this case. They would not look at two people that fit the exact description, of who people had said were possibly involved in the Arlis Perry murder. This self proclaimed priest had tried to lock me inside the church without allowing my husband inside. They had 3 foot long burning candles all over the place and you still can not just go in any store and buy such candles. In 1974 no one I knew other then these guys had candles of that length. To this day I do not know where you would purchase that unless now you can find them on line.
    They had a sign on the bathroom door “The Rectory” Definition…The Priest Home.

    I am a mother, I would be sick if no one solved my daughters murder, and this landed at their feet two short weeks after the murder and they never once looked into it. But that is the truth. This self proclaimed priest did go to prison for 9 years, his blonde headed lover supposedly committed suicide with a gun the fake priest owned. The fake priest (the brown headed one) is still alive. He is almost 70 now.
    The Santa Clara Sheriff’s department owed Arlis and her parents to look at every lead. They did not look at this lead, not at all and Detective Kahn told me they didn’t. He claimed Lieutenant Konar did not give him this info. I don’t believe him. I think Kahn made the decision not to look at it, because he want the case to remain with him. He accused me of writing fiction. I asked Kahn, “But what if these are the two guys?” He told me it was fiction and slammed the phone down on me. It makes you wonder how many other leads they poo pooed to keep total control of the case, yet this goes unsolved and they refuse to look at an event that happened two weeks after the murder of Arlis. Who decides that????? This was an innocent young woman newly married, and parents and siblings. This is deplorable, ARLIS deserved better then this. The public deserved better then this. The public deserves to know this is why this case is not solved. They do not want to look at this now because they had this story fall in their lap over 40 years ago. Shame on the shabby way this case was handled!

    I have done everything I can to have someone give a damn! No one does and I am doing the only thing I can. I am telling the truth. So how many leads on this case went into the dumpster? I know the lead I gave them 40 years ago should have been taken seriously. If for no other reason the blonde guys death is questionable, and the reason the fake priest went to prison is incredibly sad because he is a sadistic bastard. Maybe that alone would have been prevented had they just looked into their form of CHURCH!

  • Meme Lover 1970

    Whoever did this must be a sick person, and it’s a shame they didn’t catch him. Where is the culprit now? Probably incarcerated, committed to a mental hospital or dead…

  • Joe M

    Lazy Police is written all over this..Jurisdiction BS, having to go investigate in another State ie, California to North Dakota or actually contacting Police elsewhere and then maybe having them get credit for the arrest if there ever is one..Maury Terry found out more about this case then the Police ever knew or know today..Instead of maybe trying to work with him and catching the savages responsible, It was easier to blow him off and tell him his stories are fabricated or have no truth to them..I agree with the comment below, the parents and family of Arlis Perry deserved better as did Arlis herself..40 years and still not solved..I wonder if all the Police Detectives were paid for the last 40 years who were working this case for nothing..I bet a lot of them retired on this case..I know at my job if I had nothing to show after 40 years there would be a lot of questions being asked.

  • John S

    Hello Renvellyn , I’ve been interested in this case ever since reading Maury Terry’s Ultimate Evil, years ago. I may be going out on a limb here, but while watching this
    Son of Sam speaks video, an imprisoned man named Jesse Turner speaks via phone
    about how he was involved with Berkowitz. Knowing Berkowitz knew about Arlis’s slaying
    before it was public knowledge, I can’t help but think this Jesse Turner may be this so called priest you mentioned. His image appears at 32:05 in this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JepFcuZVuo
    Does Jesse Turner look like the self proclaimed priest?