Stephen Blake Crawford died by suicide when investigators responded to his South San Jose apartment to arrest him in 2018 as a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Arlis Perry in 1974, Sheriff Laurie Smith said in a press conference at the time.
Perry was killed in one of three murders around Stanford University in 1973 and 1974. The murders became known as the Stanford murders. Crawford was linked to the case through DNA evidence, Smith said. At the time of his death, Crawford was also considered as a possible suspect in the murders of Leslie Marie Perlov and Janet Ann Taylor, The Mercury News reported. However, investigators later filed charges against John Arthur Getreu in those deaths, following DNA matches.
ABC 20/20 is digging into the Stanford murders in a new episode that airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, September 17, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know:
Crawford Shot Himself When Deputies Were Serving an Arrest Warrant & a Suicide Note Was Found Near Him, Investigators Said
Smith said in her press conference deputies responded to Crawford’s studio apartment and knocked on the door on June 28, 2018, with a warrant for his arrest. Crawford claimed he needed to get dressed, but after several minutes, they believed he was stalling and unlocked the door using a key they received from the landlord. When deputies entered, Crawford was sitting on the bed with a gun, Smith said.
“The detectives retreated, just got out of the way of the door, and they heard one gunshot… and found that he had taken his life with one gunshot wound to the head,” Smith said.
She said deputies did not fire any shots, and the incident was captured on body cams.
Deputies found a suicide note in Crawford’s apartment, which “appeared to be hastily written,” Smith said. It was dated 2016, which she said corresponds to the time he was interviewed in the murder investigation. She said the note did not reference the murder and described the note as “kind of rambling.”
“I think he might have believed that his time was up,” Smith said.
Smith said law enforcement had gathered enough evidence to make an arrest based on DNA evidence that was sent to a lab. The Mercury News reported Crawford’s DNA was obtained from discarded items that matched DNA evidence found on Perry’s clothing, which was retested in 2016. The article said the most recent DNA test came from semen found on jeans that Perry wore to the church where her body was found. The jeans were removed and draped over her body, the article said.
Deputies Found a Book, “The Ultimate Evil,” in Crawford’s Apartment, Which Discusses the Son of Sam Case
After Crawford’s death, investigators found the torn-off cover of the book, “The Ultimate Evil,” Smith said during the press conference. The book is about the Son of Sam serial killer, and mentioned the murder of Perry, according to The Mercury News.
Perry was brutally murdered in a church at Stanford University, where Crawford worked as a security guard, The Mercury News reported. Perry had gotten into an argument with her husband, Bruce Perry, a Stanford pre-med student. Arlis Perry told her husband she was going to the church to pray at about 11:30 p.m. the night of her 1974 murder. Bruce Perry called police at 3:30 a.m., and police found the doors to the church locked. Smith said in her press conference Crawford was in charge of locking the doors, and told police he found Perry’s body.
The Mercury News reported that an ice pick had been driven into the back of Perry’s skull, and said that “her body had been violated with church candles.”
Smith said the murder was “a terrible, terrible crime,” and sent her sympathies to the family of Perry. She said she started with the sheriff’s office soon after Perry’s death when she was not much older than Perry, and said the case was “personal” to her. She said Crawford had been a person of interest for many years, but investigators were not able to gather enough evidence to charge him until 2018.
“We look at this as closure and we believe that we had solid evidence to arrest and even convict Stephen Crawford for the murder of Arlis Perry,” Smith said.