Stanford grad's alleged killer faces victim's family in court

Leslie Perlov's family members spoke at suspect's arraignment in cold case murder

Facing her beloved sibling's alleged killer for the first time on Monday, the sister of Stanford University homicide victim Leslie Perlov described the impact of her death since she was found strangled in the foothills near the Stanford Dish on Feb. 16, 1973.

Diane Perlov asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Sevely to withhold bail for John Arthur Getreu, 74, of Hayward, who is being held for the slaying. The judge agreed during his arraignment on Monday afternoon.

John Arthur Getreu, 74, is accused of killing Leslie Marie Perlov, 21, whose body was found under an oak tree on Feb. 16, 1973 in an area now known as The Dish behind Stanford University. Image courtesy Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
"Murder does not just affect the deceased. It takes many lives. It changes many lives forever," Diane Perlov said, looking directly at Getreu. He didn't look back, she said. Bringing her sister's alleged killer to trial "is the least we can do," Diane Perlov told the court.

Getreu is being charged with first-degree murder with an allegation of attempted rape. His Nov. 20 arrest marks the end of a 45-year investigation Perlov's killing. DNA evidence linked Getreu to the crime, in which Perlov, 21, a Stanford graduate and Los Altos Hill resident, was strangled with a scarf. According to a police report, she was not sexually assaulted, but her skirt was pulled up and her pantyhose were stuffed in her mouth.

Her sister said that Leslie, who was 14 months older, had been her and their younger brother's protector. She was the smartest of the siblings; a caring and loving person who introduced her to philosophy and poetry and the anti-war movement. They shared a room, clothes, secrets and laughter. When her sister left for Stanford, Diane Perlov said she cried because "we would laugh so hard my sides would ache. No one else could make me laugh so hard."

But this came to an end for no reason, she said of her sister's death.

"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," she said.

Diane Perlov's son, who was born 10 years to the day of her sister's death on Feb. 13, never knew his aunt or what she could have contributed to life, she said. But he named his daughter, now 5, after his aunt. An oil portrait of Leslie commissioned by her mother after she died still hangs on his wall. When the family recently evacuated from the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, that painting was among the cherished items they stuffed in their small car, Diane Perlov said.

Leslie was unable to fulfill her life's ambitions and dreams, Perlov said, looking at Getreu. She was never able to attend the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she had intended to earn a law degree and to help people in need. Their mother, who died four years ago, never wanted to seek grief counseling because the hole in her heart could never heal, Perlov recalled.

With Getreu's arrest, "step by step, we're just looking for justice," she added later outside the Hall of Justice in San Jose. She reached for her brother's hand as she addressed reporters.

Craig Perlov, three years younger than his slain sister, was a sophomore at the University of California, Davis when his mother called to say that she was missing. "I still miss Leslie. She was a brilliant, kind and loving person," he said.

Viewing Getreu in the courtroom made him nervous, he said. "Seeing the person who is likely my sister's killer is a difficult thing," he added.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a press conference following the hearing that Getreu could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

"We restarted the cold case unit eight years ago for days like today, when we hoped and believed we could bring justice to the families of murder victims," Rosen said.

Diane Perlov said she kept in touch with cold-case investigators for 45 years. But she never thought she would finally get the call she received this month from Detective Sgt. Noe Cortez who said "Diane, we got him," she recalled.

Cortez, who began working the case in 2016 after joining the sheriff's homicide unit, said outside of court that DNA samples taken from evidence were sent to Parabon NanoLabs for further evaluation. The Virginia-based DNA technology company developed a profile based on the sample and sent it to a public genetic genealogy database. The sample matched with the DNA of Getreu's relatives. Detectives researched all of the relatives, finding Getreu. They found new DNA samples from Getreu that matched the DNA gathered from the crime scene, he said. The process took about two to three weeks. Within a month, detectives arrested Getreu.

Outside the courthouse, retired Santa Clara County Sheriff's Lt. John Johnson, who worked on the case for 15 years, said he felt relief over Getreu's arrest. It is the second Stanford cold case that he worked on that has been resolved this year through DNA evidence.

"When you work these cases, they stay with you," he said, but he didn't think they would ever be solved.

The other case, the grisly homicide at Stanford's Memorial Church of 19-year-old Arlis Perry in 1974, resolved in June with the attempted arrest of former night watchman Stephen Blake Crawford, 72. Crawford, who was a suspect in the murder, killed himself as police moved in to arrest him at his San Jose apartment.

Four homicides took place on or near the Stanford University campus between 1973 and 1974 that share some similarities, but they have not been linked. In addition to the Perry and Perlov homicides, two others occurred in that same span of time. David S. Levine, a 20-year-old physics student, was found stabbed 12 times near Meyer Library on Sept. 11, 1973. Janet Ann Taylor, 21, the daughter of former Stanford Athletic Director Chuck Taylor, was found strangled in a ditch on Stanford property on Sand Hill Road and Manzanita Way on March 25, 1974.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said she expects that more of the 100-plus cold cases in Santa Clara County will be solved using the same familial DNA techniques used to nab Getreu, along with solid detective work and dedication.

"Because we have this technology, we want to hit all of these cases while the suspects are still alive," she said.

The county's oldest cold case occurred in 1946, she said.

Getreu is scheduled to enter a plea on Dec. 17.

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9 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 27, 2018 at 6:07 pm

The title of this article makes no sense. It implies that the person in the story is the sister of the killer, not the sister of the victim. "Sister of Stanford grad's alleged killer" means the sister of the killer, not the sister of the victim.

Perhaps "Sister of murdered Stanford grad faces alleged killer" would make more sense.

7 people like this
Posted by Interested
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm

I am not generally an advocate for the death penalty (because some may be falsely accused, and I don't usually think I could be responsible for someone else dying). However, when the DNA proof is so solid, and a person is as evil as this man, I wonder if he's worth the air he breathes or the funds taxpayers will give to feed and care for him in prison. He has undoubtedly taken more lives than this young woman's, and to think he's allowed to live on, seems very unjust to me.
Please, no lectures from others on whether we can take the life of anyone under any circumstances - we all have our own opinions and I respect that.

2 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 28, 2018 at 3:39 pm

I TOTALLY AGREE with "Interested"'s stance on the death penalty vav solid proof and a vicious crime/criminal. When such a person commits such a crime... to me attached to his choice to do that crime is his willful choice to relinquish the right to breath the precious air of this precious planet. I'm willing to accept his contract and support the death penalty consequence. No "holier than thou" lectures for me either.

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