Case File #0143
The Murder of Arlis Perry
On the evening of 12 October 1974, 19-year-old Arlis Perry failed to return home after attending prayer at Stanford Memorial Church in Stanford, California. At round 3:00am, her husband Bruce decided to report her missing to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. When officers arrived at the church they found the outer doors locked and no sign of forced entry. Stephen Crawford, the campus security guard, found the body of a young woman later that morning inside the church near the altar. She had been stabbed and strangled to death, and her body violated. Initially both Mr. Perry and Crawford were suspects, but evidence found at the scene ruled out both men as the killer. It would be over 43 years before her killer would finally be unmasked.
Arlis Perry was a 19-year-old newlywed who had recently moved to Stanford University to be with her husband. She grew up in Bismark, North Dakota where she and Bruce D. Perry had been high school sweethearts before getting married in August 1974. Bruce was a sophomore pre-med student, whilst Arlis had gotten a job working as a receptionist at a local law firm and the couple were living on campus in Quillen House in Escondido Village.

Arlis Perry

On the evening of 12 October 1974, the Perrys were walking to a campus mailbox at around 11:30pm when they quarrelled about checking the tire pressure of their car. Upset over the dispute, Arlis told her husband she wanted to pray alone at their local congregation, Stanford Memorial Church. Mr. Perry went home alone, but soon became concerned when his wife failed to return home. When she did not come home by 3:00am, he decided to contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and report her missing.
When officers arrived at the Church, they found the doors were locked from the outside and the building was secure. The Campus security guard, Stephen Crawford, who was also a former Stanford police officer, told detectives he had locked up the church just after midnight, and then rechecked the doors at 2:00am, making sure they were still locked. When Crawford arrived at the church at 5:45am on 13 October to open it for the day, he discovered Arlis's body inside the church.

Stanford Memorial Church

He notified police and told investigators that when he arrived, he found the west side door open and it appeared to have been forced form the inside. Her body was located near the altar, in the church's east transept. She was lying face-up and an ice pick had been rammed into the back of her head, but the handle had broken off and was missing. It also appeared she had been strangled and she was stripped naked from the waist down. The killer had placed a three-foot long altar candle in her vagina and another was laid between her breasts.

Crime Scene Photo

Forensic officers found a palm print was left on a candle and semen on a kneeling pillow near the victims body as well as on her Levi bluejeans which had been removed and draped on her body. Detectives suspected Bruce Perry as the prime suspect in his wife's murder, however neither the semen sample or the palm print were a match to either him or the security guard Crawford and both were ruled out. At least seven people were known to have visited the church on the night of 12 October and the morning of 13 October. Amongst these were Arlis and Crawford, and another four who were later identified. Police were unable to ascertain the identity of the seventh individual.

The body is removed by mortuary staff

A passerby came forward to report they witnessed a young man about to enter the church at around midnight. He described him as being around 5ft 10", medium build, with sandy-coloured hair and oddly as not wearing a watch. Despite a wealth of evidence, the case remained active for several years and was never officially closed down or relegated to cold case status. Investigators ruled out any link between Arlis murder and three other murders which occurred previously, dating back to February 1973.

Newspaper article on the killing

Investigative reporter Terry Maury spoke with friends of the Perry's in Bismark and learned that someone on the Stanford campus had taken a telephone listing under Bruce Perry's name. He learned this caused some confusion when Bruce's mother and Arlis's best friend attempted to contact the number. Arlis eventually called the number herself and spoke to someone in residence there to work out what was going on.
A letter from Arlis to her friend dated 27 September 1974 shed some light on the mystery. She wrote;

"I had to laugh about your call to Bruce Perry. Mrs. Perry made the same mistake. She called them, too. But the strange part of it is that his name is not only Bruce Perry but it is Bruce D. Perry, and not only that but it is Bruce Duncan Perry and he attends Stanford University, and he just got married this summer. One thing, his wife's name is not Arlis. Anyway, next time you get the urge to call, the number is -------. This time I guarantee you'll get the right Bruce Perry."
In 1979, imprisoned serial killer David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer mentioned the murder of Arlis Perry in several letters, writing in one; "ARLISS [sic] PERRY, HUNTED, STALKED AND SLAIN. FOLLOWED TO CALIFORNIA. STANFORD UNIV." Investigators interviewed Berkowitz after he volunteered information about what he knew. He had apparently heard details of the crime from the alleged perpetrator, who he referred to as "Manson II". Detectives confirmed they had met with Berkowitz regarding the Perry case but believe he had nothing of value to offer.
In 2018 the case was re-investigated after advances in DNA testing definitively linked a suspect to the murder. On Thursday, 28 June 2018, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department issued a warrant to search the San Jose studio apartment of Stephen Blake Crawford, the former campus security guard. However, Crawford committed suicide by gunshot before he could be arrested. Authorities believed he had been aware that the the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office working with the District Attorney's Office cold-case unit were about to apprehend him.
A suicide note was found at his home address after his death, dated two years prior, indicating that he had been planning to end his life in the event of his capture. Sheriff Laurie Smith said, "I think he might have believed his time was up". Detectives had been keeping him under surveillance ever since the Perry murder, and his latest interview with cold case detectives coincided with the drafting of the suicide letter.
Although investigators did not reveal the contents of the suicide note, they did say the Crawford made no mention of the Perry murder. Officer found several other items inside his home, including a torn off cover of the book "The Ultimate Evil", a book about the Satanic murder committed by the Son of Sam which mentions the Perry murder. There was also a Stanford diploma that had been doctored with his name on it. Crawford did not graduate from the University.
Crawford had been arrested in 1992 for theft whilst working at Stanford. The campus authorities discovered he had been methodically stealing numerous American Indian artifacts, including art objects and sculptures, as well as over 200 rare books from the Stanford University department of Anthropology and the campus libraries. According to court records he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of receiving stolen property and was given a six-month suspended sentence, which he served through a work furlough program and two years probation.

1992 mugshot of Crawford

His neighbours described how they noticed western artworks as well as "nice bronze statues of horses with Indians on them", after glancing in the windows of his apartment. The Sheriff's office commented that the conviction for the stolen artwork was not the source of the DNA sample recently used to implicate him in the Perry murder. His DNA was taken passively, from discarded items the investigators collected.
Sheriff Smith commented on the evidence which led them to Stephen Crawford. In 2016, DNA testing had been conducted on the semen sample taken from the Levi bluejeans worn by Arlis on the night of her murder, which implicated Crawford as the murderer. Investigators recontacted everyone who had been in the church that evening 43 years ago, in order to eliminate their DNA and fingerprint profiles. Eventually the evidence pointed to Crawford who had moved away from Stanford two years after the murder.
When officers arrived at his residence on Camden Avenue, he apparently delayed their entry by requesting to get dressed. The arresting officers already had a key to his apartment and after several minutes they entered when they believed he was stalling for time. Inside the officers saw Crawford sat on his bed holding a handgun. The deputies backed away from the room and soon after they heard a gunshot. Re-entering they discovered the suspect had shot himself in the head.
Investigators believe Crawford's implication in the Perry murder and his subsequent suicide has led to speculation that he might be responsible or had some involvement in the previous string of unsolved murders which occurred at the campus since 1973. 21-year-old Leslie Marie Perlov, a Palo Alto law clerk and Stanford graduate was found strangled in the nearby foothills on 16 February 1943. Her pantyhose was found stuffed in her mouth and her skirt had been pulled up around her waist. On 20 November 2018, a suspect was arrested for the murder of Perlov in much the same circumstances as Crawford had been.
Two others murders remain unsolved, that of 19-year-old David Levine, who was found next to the Meyer Library on 11 September 1973, he had been stabbed 15 times, and the murder of 21-year-old Janet Ann Taylor, the daughter of former Stanford athletic director and American football player Charles "Chuck" Taylor, was found strangled in a ditch on Sand Hill Road. Santa Clara County authorities have so far not linked Crawford to either of these murders, however Sheriff Smith commented, "We're always looking at that, I know there's a lot more work to do on this case even though the suspect that I believe is the killer is dead."

Written by Nucleus