At trial, brother of teen murdered in 1963 testifies against accused serial killer | September 10, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 10, 2021

At trial, brother of teen murdered in 1963 testifies against accused serial killer

A decade later, John Getreu lived minutes away from where victim Janet Ann Taylor was found

by Sue Dremann

Editor's note: Descriptions of crime in this article may be disturbing to some readers.

Alleged serial killer John Arthur Getreu was convicted of killing and raping a 15-year-old girl in Germany in 1964, a decade before the strangled bodies of two young women he is now accused of killing were found on Stanford University land, the brother of the murdered teenager testified on Tuesday.

Evan David Williams, a pastor, said that Getreu killed his sister on June 9, 1963, when his family and Getreu's parents were stationed at the U.S. Army base in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. His sister, Margaret Williams, was found in a field. She had been beaten about the face, strangled and raped.

Williams said his father, who was an army chaplain at the time, told him that Getreu had been arrested for the crime.

Getreu, 76, of Hayward, is now being tried in San Mateo County Superior Court for allegedly killing Janet Ann Taylor, 21, whose beaten face and strangled body was found in a ditch near the intersection of Sand Hill Road and Manzanita Way in 1974. Taylor was the second woman found on Stanford land with similar injuries. Leslie Marie Perlov, 21, was discovered near what is now the Stanford Dish hiking area in a remote area in 1973. Getreu is facing a first-degree murder charge in her death in Santa Clara County.

San Mateo County Sheriff Detective Gordon Currie testified Tuesday that he obtained 10 volumes of court documents related to Getreu's 1964 conviction in Margaret Williams' murder. Deputy District Attorney Josh Stauffer read excerpts from the more than 1,000 pages of court documents. Getreu, who was 18 years old at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape with fatal consequences. He served a partial sentence of five years and nine months. German officials believed he was likely to lead a "righteous life" after he was sent to live with his parents in the U.S., where he returned in 1969 under probation supervision, according to the German court documents.

Getreu, in his own statement to German investigators, said he and Williams met at a dance. He hadn't seen the girl before but noticed her when she exited a car. They went for a walk and talked.

He said he had no special intention that night. Williams told him she had to be home at a specific time, but rather than walk toward the school and her home, they headed in the opposite direction. They sat on a bench in a park and later walked to a playground. He said he wanted to be alone with her; they walked away from where people were nearby.

Getreu and Williams began kissing while sitting on his jacket, then were lying down, and he soon began to want intercourse. He told her that he had consumed "a lot of drinks." She was nervous and distressed and wanted to go home. It began to rain, and she said that was why she wanted to leave. "She did not react positively" to his advances, according to the police investigation. He said as his excitement had increased, he wanted to rape her.

Williams began talking loudly to try to attract attention. Getreu gave her a judo chop in the neck so she couldn't talk anymore, he said. She stood up, and he punched her in the face, he said; she fell to the ground.

She was about to cry out, so he covered her face tightly with his jacket. As Williams began to kick and tried to scream, he held her mouth shut with one hand and grabbed her by the throat with the other, he told police.

Williams lost consciousness, but Getreu had the impression she was still breathing. She didn't move at all and he raped her, he said.

As car headlights passed nearby, he grabbed his jacket and ran away. After returning home, he took his dog for a walk and returned to the area to see if she was still alive. Margaret Williams never regained consciousness. She died on the playing field, police said.

Outside the courtroom, Evan Williams said there were new aspects to the crime he hadn't heard before.

"I feel glad that there's the potential to convict someone who needs to be convicted. I feel a connection to others" who have lost loved ones to murder, he said.

Getreu's first wife, Susan Cammarota, also testified Tuesday. She said that he told her before they were married that he had killed a girl in Germany. She also said he was convicted of statutory rape after initially being charged with raping a teenage girl who was a member of his Explorer Scout troop in 1975, while Cammarota and he were married. (The victim testified in court last week.) He served his jail sentence on weekends, she said.

Getreu also regularly traveled along the route where Taylor was found, according to testimony from his stepdaughter.

Kathi Stone, Cammarota's daughter, testified that she first met Getreu when she was 6 years old. The family lived in various locations along the Midpeninsula. They lived about two years on Montrose Avenue in Palo Alto, then moved to Redwood City for another two years before moving back to an apartment in Palo Alto.

While living at an aunt's house on Roberta Drive in Woodside, a quiet area of trees and grasslands, Getreu drove Stone to school daily on a route that connects up with Sand Hill Road.

Currie pointed to a map during his testimony. A green square depicted where Taylor's body was found on Sand Hill near Manzanita Way, the route Getreu would have taken daily to go home.

How far is the location of Sand Hill and Manzanita from Roberta Drive? Stauffer asked.

"About 2 miles," Currie said.

The time to travel from the scene of Taylor's murder to Roberta Drive takes about six minutes, he said.

Email Staff Writer Sue Dremann at [email protected]


Posted by NanaDi
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 8, 2021 at 10:58 am

NanaDi is a registered user.

Such a tragic story. Reminds me of the saying "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior". My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.