Update: Murder defendant John Getreu reportedly underwent surgery last week, returned to jail on Sunday and has since been readmitted into a hospital, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe reported Thursday, Oct. 1. His case in San Mateo County Superior Court was rescheduled for a status conference on Monday, Oct. 5. He's also set for a trial setting hearing in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Nov. 4.
A man charged with killing two young women in the 1970s on Stanford University property has been hospitalized right before his trial was set to begin in San Mateo County.
John Arthur Getreu, 76, of Hayward, is accused in the killings of Leslie Marie Perlov and Janet Ann Taylor, both 21, in 1973 and 1974, respectively. He was identified as the alleged killer through modern DNA techniques after eluding arrest for decades.
Getreu's case is scheduled to start on Monday, Sept. 28, with jury selection in his trial in San Mateo County for Taylor's death, but little is known about his condition, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been informed that he does not have COVID-19, he said.
Getreu was arrested by Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies in November 2018 for the Feb. 16, 1973, strangulation murder of Perlov, who was found in the foothills under an oak tree near the present-day Stanford Dish. She was strangled with her pantyhose. That case is being tried in Santa Clara County where he is charged with first-degree murder with an allegation of attempted rape.
Getreu was identified as the alleged killer after DNA evidence linked him to the death. Familial DNA databases and new technology allowed investigators to match him to evidence found at the crime scene through samples of his DNA they obtained in 2018 from items he had discarded, authorities said at the time of his arrest.
Similarities in both cases led investigators in San Mateo County to test items found at the Taylor homicide against Getreu's DNA profile, which they obtained from Santa Clara County, and found a match. In both cases, investigators determined the women were not raped but said there was a sexual motivation behind each alleged crime based on Getreu's criminal history and other indicators found by law enforcement. Getreu has a history of murder and sexual violence against young women. He was first arrested and convicted in Germany of strangling, raping and killing a 15-year-old teen in 1963, where he spent several years in prison before returning to the U.S. to live with his family. He was 18 years old at the time of that crime. He also pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge in the rape of a Palo Alto teen in 1975.
San Mateo County prosecutors charged him with Taylor's murder in May 2019. Taylor was found strangled on March 25, 1974, off the side of the road at Sand Hill Road and Manzanita Way.
Getreu has pleaded not guilty in the Perlov and Taylor cases. He is scheduled for a trial setting hearing on Wednesday afternoon in Santa Clara County on the Perlov case.
Wagstaffe said that tightened protocols due to COVID-19 have made it difficult for Getreu's attorney to visit him and the attorney did not know yet why his client was hospitalized. Facing difficulty in planning for the trial without much information on Getreu's health, prosecutors plan to speak to hospital staff to learn more.
Prosecutors plan to begin having witnesses testify on Oct. 13 if all goes as planned, he said.