John Arthur Getreu, 74, was arraigned Thursday in the death of Janet Ann Taylor, whose body was found by a delivery driver on March 25, 1974, off the side of Sand Hill Road near Manzanita Road, property owned by Stanford west of Interstate 280.
Taylor, the daughter of former Stanford Athletic Director Chuck Taylor, had been strangled. She was barefoot and her purse could not be found at the scene, according to a 1974 article in the Stanford Daily. Police later found her raincoat, belt and shoes strewn at intervals along Sand Hill.
Though the coroner determined that she had not been raped, "evidence clearly indicates a sexual motivation for the crime," Assistant Sheriff Gregory Rothaus said at a press conference Thursday morning.
The evening of March 24, Taylor, who had just started a job in Palo Alto the week before, was hitchhiking home to La Honda from a friend's house on the Stanford campus, the Stanford Daily article stated. The last time anyone saw her she was near Junipero Serra Boulevard at around 7:05 p.m.
Getreu is the same man who was arrested Nov. 20, 2018, for the murder of Leslie Marie Perlov, a Stanford University graduate who was last seen on Feb. 13, 1973, and found dead three days later under an oak tree in an area known now known as The Dish. She, too, had been strangled.
Getreu has yet to enter a plea in that case.
Investigators had long suspected that the same person had killed Perlov and Taylor, whose bodies were found less than a mile apart.
"The suspect's MO was very similar, and both victims were last seen leaving the Stanford University campus area before their murders," Rothaus said.
In pursuing the killer or killers, cold-case investigators from both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties last year submitted evidence from the two crimes to their respective crime labs for DNA analysis. Santa Clara County's lab found male DNA on Perlov's items. That sample was then sent in July to Parabon NanoLab for further evaluation, Santa Clara County sheriff's officials said at time.
The Virginia-based DNA technology company developed a profile based on the sample and sent it to a public genetic genealogy database that matched it with Getreu based on the DNA of his relatives.
Investigators obtained DNA samples from Getreu, and on Nov. 9, 2018, the lab matched Getreu's DNA with DNA gathered from the Perlov crime scene.
According to the lab report, "The probability that a random, unrelated individual could be included as a possible contributor to this deduced profile was approximately 1 (in) 65 septillion."
After Getreu's arrest last year, San Mateo County homicide detectives David Tresmontan and Rick Jackson doubled down on Taylor's case. They told the Weekly they had inherited the case from another investigator who was retiring. She specifically asked them to reopen the case.
"I hope you can solve it," Jackson recalled she said.
Tresmontan and Jackson submitted additional evidence to their crime lab. This time, DNA was found on an article of Taylor's clothing, and that DNA matched Getreu's.
"I've worked homicides for 30 years. When you get that call, it gives you goosebumps," Jackson said.
The sheriff's office sent its case against Getreu to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office on May 10 and subsequently an arrest warrant was issued for Getreu, who was transferred to San Mateo County jail for Thursday's arraignment.
Asked if Getreu had any known connection with Taylor, Rothaus said investigators don't think he knew her but believe he did offer her a ride, a suspicion that earlier investigators also held.
According to the Stanford Daily article, police said a witness saw a "nervous" man standing next to a white 1964 Pontiac Catalina at about 12:15 a.m. March 25, not far from the spot where Taylor's body was later found. The witness reportedly stopped and asked the man if he was having car problems, but he said he wasn't, and the witness drove away.
What's known of Getreu's past
Rothaus stated that Getreu has a criminal history, having been found guilty of two previous rapes and one murder as a young man.
Getreu was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 1963 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl while living in Germany with his father, a U.S. Army officer, according to The Newark Advocate newspaper in Ohio, where the Getreus once lived. The girl was the daughter of the chaplain of the Army's 8th Infantry Division.
"I am deeply sorry for her parents, and if I could do something to bring her back, I would do it," a 19-year-old Getreu said in court.
Because he was a foreigner and considered a juvenile under German law, the court said that he could be released on parole after serving two years and allowed to return to the United States, the 1964 article stated.
By 1972, Getreu was employed as a security guard by California Plant Protection Services of Palo Alto. That August, he was credited with having chased off potential arsonists at a Redwood City industrial plant, according to an article in the San Mateo Times.
The Redwood City fire inspector told the Times that Getreu claimed he'd arrived at the plant at 10 p.m. and found an open door and kerosene poured on a pile of paper and several wooden matches on the floor. Desks and cabinets had also been rifled through, the inspector said, but nothing of value had been taken, the article stated. The three teens that Getreu said he'd scared away were never found.
He was also found guilty in 1975 of raping a Santa Clara County woman.
Rothaus said Thursday that investigators have contacted other law enforcement agencies in the areas where Getreu has lived in case he might be a person of interest in those jurisdictions' unsolved cases.
Tresmontan and Jackson have spoken to Taylor's family and former boyfriend.
"The family was very surprised that we were even looking at the case," Jackson said.
Tresmontan said he has spoken with Taylor's former boyfriend on three occasions since solving the case.
"Each time he was quite emotional, even 45 years later, and is very appreciative," he said.
Taylor's family issued a statement released by the sheriff's office Thursday, thanking law enforcement officers for working "diligently (and) meticulously" to break the case.
The Taylors recalled Janet as the "spunky, fun-loving youngest of three children."
"Janet lived life with enthusiasm and courage. ... She added much laughter and joy to our family," their statement read. "We can't ever know all that we missed, but whatever she pursued, Janet would have served others with passion and kindness."
Getreu is being held on $10 million bail. He was to be returned to Santa Clara County's custody Thursday for continued prosecution in the Perlov case.
Anyone with information on the case or Getreu is asked to call the sheriff's office anonymous tip line at 800-547-2700.
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