A suspected serial killer and rapist was convicted of the cold case rape and homicide of a college librarian.
John Arthur Getreu, 79, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the 1973 murder of Stanford University law librarian Leslie Perlov, 21, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Perlov was found dead in the Stanford Hills — overlooking Stanford campus — on Feb. 16, 1973, where a “floral scarf was found tightly knotted around her neck,” causing her death.
Tuesday’s plea marks Getreu’s third murder conviction.
“Justice for Leslie and her loved ones took a very long time, but it has arrived,” stated District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “This serial rapist and murderer will spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Perlov’s siblings, including sister Diane Perlov, were in the courtroom when Getreu appeared via video to submit his guilty plea, according to Palo Alto Online.
“There’s justice without peace; there’s no peace for something like this,” said the sister. “The least I can expect is justice, and that’s what we got.”
Diane Perlov said Getreu “didn’t hesitate” in submitting his plea, something she called “satisfying.”
Perlov vanished from Palo Alto, just outside Stanford, on Feb. 13, 1973 — hours before her 1972 Chevrolet Nova was discovered near an old quarry’s gate near Old Page Mill Road, according to the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office. Her body was found three days later under an oak tree.
The murder remained unsolved for years until Parabon Nabolabs — a Virginia-based company that provides DNA phenotyping to help law enforcement solve cases nationwide — joined the investigation in 2018.
The company examined the suspect’s DNA, which investigators collected from underneath Perlov’s fingernails, according to the district attorney’s office.
Around that time, investigators in San Mateo County had reopened the unsolved murder of 21-year-old Janet Ann Taylor, who was strangled to death and found on a roadside near the campus on March 24, 1974, according to county officials. In that case, Taylor was not raped, though the sheriff’s office said, “Evidence clearly indicates a sexual motivation for the crime.”
Santa Clara authorities say Taylor was the daughter of Stanford University football coach and athletic director Chuck Taylor.
Investigators said the “suspect’s MO [method] was very similar” in both cases, noting that both Taylor and Perlov were seen leaving the university when they vanished.
Though they were unable to officially link the crimes, the suspect’s DNA from Perlov’s crime scene and DNA found on the “torn crotch area” of Taylor’s pants would officially link both homicides to a single killer, Criminalist Alice Hilker of the San Mateo County Forensics Laboratory testified during the trial for Taylor’s murder.
A San Mateo County jury found Getreu guilty of Taylor’s murder on Sept. 14, 2021.
Getreu lived near the campus and worked as a cardiac technician at Stanford Hospital when Perlov and Taylor were murdered, according to Palo Alto Online.
“Getreu is believed to have committed a string of sexual assaults and at least three slayings, two part of a pattern in the 1970s commonly known as ‘The Stanford Murders,’” according to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s recent release.
On top of the murders of Perlov and Taylor, Getreu was convicted in Germany for the 1963 murder of 15-year-old Margaret Williams. According to Palo Alto Online, the fathers of Getreu and Williams were stationed at the Bad Kreuznach military base when Getreu — then 18 years old — lured the teen into a field and killed her.
German police said Williams — whom Getreu met at a dance — rebuffed his advances. When Williams threatened to draw attention, Getreu allegedly beat and strangled the teen, raping her after she lost consciousness, according to Palo Alto Online.
He served six years of a 10-year prison term before returning to the United States and moving to the Bay Area, where his retired parents had relocated.
Diane Perlov told the Palo Alto outlet that Getreu’s recent plea was “a victory,” given he only served six years for Williams’ murder.
Getreu was also convicted of raping a 17-year-old Explorer Scout in Palo Alto while he worked as a troop leader in 1975, according to the Palo Alto outlet.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office says Getreu will spend the rest of his life behind bars, though he’ll be formally sentenced for Perlov’s murder on April 26.