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Suspect in 1974 MemChu murder dies before police search

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Former Memorial Church security guard Stephen Crawford died from an apparent suicide Thursday morning after police arrived at his San Jose apartment to serve a search warrant.

Although he was a person of interest almost immediately after the October 13, 1974 murder of 19-year-old Arlis Perry, Crawford became the primary suspect in the case after investigators recently re-tested DNA evidence.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told the San Jose Mercury News that Crawford had been contacted regarding the case weeks before detectives arrived at his apartment around 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

According to the San Jose Police Department, detectives entered Crawford’s home, saw that he was armed with a gun, exited the apartment and re-entered after hearing a gunshot inside, later finding Crawford dead.

In a press conference Thursday night, Smith said detectives were still at Crawford’s apartment searching for evidence that he murdered Perry and the victims of “any other unsolved murders.” The search was initially postponed after Crawford’s apparent suicide.

Smith added that, although investigators interrogated Crawford “on and off” in the years following the murder, the interrogations “ramped up recently.” Smith credited the detectives efforts, noting they needed to continually submit evidence for testing until they discovered Crawford’s DNA on an item of Perry’s clothing.

In a phone interview with the Mercury News, Perry’s 88-year-old mother, Jean Dykema, told reporters that she wished the case had been solved more quickly and that her deceased husband, who she said died three months before Thursday, “was possessed with wanting to know” who had murdered their daughter.

“I know there is someone far greater that will punish [Crawford],” Dykema told the Mercury News. “I don’t have to do that.”

In 2014, The Daily revisited Perry’s murder nearly 40 years after it had been committed. Perry reportedly walked alone to Memorial Church around 11:30 p.m. October 12 after an argument with her newlywed husband. Around 5:40 a.m. the next morning, Crawford claimed to have found Perry’s dead body in the church. She was lying face up and was naked from the waist down. An autopsy identified signs of strangulation, sexual abuse via candlestick and an ice pick in the back of Perry’s head.

“We extend our gratitude to local law enforcement for their efforts over decades to resolve this disturbing case,” University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in a statement to The Daily. “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.”

Smith stood between photographs of Perry and Crawford during the press conference.

“This is a case that eludes us no longer,” Smith said, gesturing to the nearby photograph of Perry. “Lead detective sergeant Richard Alanis kept this picture of Arlis Perry with him as a constant reminder that her life and this case had value.”

 

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

This post has been updated with comments from Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith in a press conference held Thursday night.

Holden Foreman '21 is The Daily's Executive Editor. He hails from the city of St. Louis, Missouri and is studying electrical engineering, computer science and economics. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.