1982 Cold Case Murder Solved by DNA and Sunnyvale Detective
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office has charged a 75-year-old resident of Hawaii for the stabbing murder of a teenage girl in 1982.
Karen Stitt was last seen by her teenage boyfriend walking at night toward a Sunnyvale bus stop. The next morning her naked body was found concealed behind a blood-stained cinderblock wall. The 15-year-old Palo Alto girl had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times.
Despite an extensive investigation, there were no significant leads for decades until the arrest last Tuesday, August 2, of Gary Ramirez at his home in Makawao on the island of Maui. The next court date in the extradition proceedings is August 10, 2022. 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.
“Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery,” DA Jeff Rosen said. “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.”
On the evening of Thursday, September 2, 1982, Ms. Stitt took a bus from her home in Palo Alto to Sunnyvale visit her boyfriend. Around midnight, Ms. Stitt’s boyfriend walked her to the area of El Camino Real and Wolfe Rd. to take the bus back home. Her boyfriend, worried he would get grounded for being out after his curfew, ran home after watching Ms. Stitt walk toward the bus stop.
Her body was found about 100 yards from the bus stop the next morning. The killer left both his blood and bodily fluid on Ms. Stitt. Ms. Stitt’s boyfriend, long considered a suspect in her murder, was cleared based on the DNA evidence.
Beginning in early 2019, Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison used a tip to determine that Karen 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 Karen Stitt crime scene. The Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab confirmed that identification last week.
The operation to arrest Ramirez took months of planning and was a coordinated effort involving Santa Clara County, Maui and federal law enforcement authorities. It was funded largely by a grant awarded to the DA’s Office in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute cold cases.
Ramirez grew up and attended high school in Fresno. He served in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s. After leaving the military, Ramirez frequented or resided in the Bay Area Peninsula, San Francisco, San Diego, Colorado, and Hawaii. Anyone with information about Gary Ramirez is encouraged to contact the DA’s Office Cold Case Prosecutor Rob Baker at [email protected].