Man accused of 1974 cold-case killing near Stanford campus pleads not guilty | News | Palo Alto Online |


Man accused of 1974 cold-case killing near Stanford campus pleads not guilty

John Arthur Getreu denies first-degree murder charge for the death of Janet Ann Taylor

In order for all area residents to have important local information on the coronavirus health emergency, Palo Alto Online has lifted its pay meter and is providing unlimited access to its website. We need your support to continue our important work. Please join your neighbors and become a subscribing member today.

A 74-year-old Hayward man who has been accused of murdering two 21-year-old women on Stanford University property about a year apart in the 1970s pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in one of the cases on Friday.

John Arthur Getreu appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court in a red jail jumpsuit and black-rimmed glasses and entered his plea in the 1974 murder of Janet Ann Taylor. Taylor's body was found on March 25, 1974, off the side of the road at Sand Hill Road and Manzanita Way.

Getreu was also arrested last November by Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies in connection with the homicide of Stanford graduate Leslie Marie Perlov and has not yet entered a plea in that case. Perlov's body was found on Feb. 13, 1973 under an oak tree on Stanford land in an area now known as The Dish.

Santa Clara County sheriff's investigators broke the Perlov cold case last fall after conducting DNA testing on items taken from Perlov and the crime scene. Familial DNA databases and new technology allowed investigators to match Getreu to evidence found at the crime scene through samples of his DNA they obtained last year from items he had discarded, authorities said. Similarities in the 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 to find 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 been held without bail in the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose since his arrest, but authorities have transported him to the San Mateo County Hall of Justice in Redwood City for hearings in the Taylor case. The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office charged Getreu with Taylor's murder on May 16. Investigators in both counties are collaborating, San Mateo County Assistant Sheriff Gregory Rothaus said during the press conference announcing the charges.

Getreu, who lived in Palo Alto at the time of the murders, was convicted in 1963 for raping and murdering a 15-year-old American girl in Germany, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was 18 years old at the time of the crime and lived with his family in Bad Kreuznach, where the fathers of both teens were stationed at a U.S. Army base. He was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old girl in Palo Alto in 1975 and pleaded to a lesser charge of statutory rape, according to court documents.

Getreu will appear in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on July 15 to enter a plea. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court on Nov. 4.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay up to date on local coronavirus coverage with our daily news digest email.

'A devastating impact:' The coronavirus claims Clarke's Charcoal Broiler, Mountain View's oldest operating restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 13 comments | 4,819 views

The first few seconds after awakening; before I remember the virus
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,886 views

Can you stay healthy without making more trash?
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 2,264 views

How COVID-19 Affects Communities
By Jessica Zang | 19 comments | 2,112 views

Think about helping others in our coronavirus-affected area
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 2,078 views



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details