Makawao man arrested in cold case involving the 1982 murder of teen girl in California
August 10, 2022, 4:24 PM HST
* Updated August 10, 5:02 PM
A 75-year-old Maui man was arrested at his home on Tuesday, Aug. 2, in connection with a 1982 cold case murder in California involving the stabbing death of a teenage girl, authorities confirmed.
In July of 2022, the Sunnyvale, CA Department of Public Safety requested assistance from law enforcement on Maui with confirming the location of Gary Ramirez. Law enforcement authorities say he had been identified as a suspect in a 40-year-old murder case.
Once his location was confirmed, authorities in Santa Clara County issued a warrant of arrest. Maui police say Ramirez was contacted at approximately 5:25 p.m. last week Tuesday, at his residence, and was arrested without incident.
As of 4 p.m. on Aug. 10, Ramirez remained in custody on Maui pending the results of extradition proceedings.
The Santa Clara District Attorneyʻs Office indicates that DNA evidence led to the arrest.
“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” DA Jeff Rosen said in a department press release. “The mystery of Karen Stitt’s death has been solved thanks to advances in forensic science and a detective that would never, ever give up.”
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office filed a felony complaint against Ramirez alleging he killed Karen Stitt, a 15-year-old Palo Alto girl.
She was last seen by her teenage boyfriend walking at night toward a Sunnyvale bus stop.
The next morning her naked body was found about 100 yards away from the bus stop, concealed behind a blood-stained cinderblock wall, according to the Santa Clara DA. The department reports that the girl had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times.
Authorities say Stitt took a bus from her home in Palo Alto to Sunnyvale on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 2, 1982 to visit her boyfriend. At around midnight, her boyfriend walked her to the bus stop so she could take the bus back home, authorities said.
According to a department press release, her boyfriend, worried he would get grounded for being out after his curfew, and ran home after watching Stitt walk toward the bus stop. The boyfriend was long considered a suspect, but was eventually cleared based on DNA evidence.
“Beginning in 2019, Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison used a tip to determine that Stitt’s killer was likely one of four brothers from Fresno. In late April 2022, Gary Ramirez was identified as the likely source of blood and bodily fluid left at the crime scene. The Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab confirmed that identification last week,” according to a DA press release.
The department reports that once Ramirez is extradited, he will be arraigned on on murder, kidnapping, and rape charges. If convicted, the former Fresno man faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the DA.
The DA’s office reports that Ramirez grew up and attended high school in Fresno, and served in the US Air Force in the early 70s. He frequented or resident in the Bay Area Peninsula, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaiʻi after leaving the military, according to the news release.
The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety posted a Facebook message saying, “We are extremely proud of the hard work of our detectives and their determination to bring Karen’s killer to justice and help provide her family with the answers they deserve. Our thoughts are with Karen’s family, her boyfriend at the time of her death, and her friends. We never forgot about her and we never will.”