DNA cracks 1982 murder case: Man arrested in case of teen girl stabbed 59 times, police say

A Hawaii man was arrested and charged in the 1982 rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old California girl after authorities say DNA from a relative led to police identifying the suspect.

On the night of Sept. 2, 1982, Karen Stitt was last seen with her boyfriend as the two walked toward a bus stop in Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, according to a criminal complaint. Her boyfriend left her, later telling police he felt bad for doing so but wanted to get home so he wouldn't get in trouble for being out late.

The next morning, a truck driver noticed a body in bushes while making a delivery and notified police, the complaint read. Police identified the body as Stitt after it was found 100 yards from the bus stop. It was determined she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times.

Sperm samples and a bloodstain on top of a cinderblock wall near where Stitt's body was found were collected.

In 2000, a DNA profile of the suspect ruled out Stitt's boyfriend, but again with no leads. It wasn't until 2021 that Sunnyvale Police Detective Matt Hutchison said he received a tip that one of four brothers from Fresno was the likely suspect.

Karen Stitt, 15, around 1982.
Karen Stitt, 15, around 1982.

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Over the course of the next year, Hutchinson said in the complaint, he was able to rule out two of the brothers and was unable to "conclusively eliminate" another, leaving Gary Ramirez, 75,  who was in the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s.

The detective was able to locate Ramirez's child and took a DNA sample, which showed "very strong statistical support" the DNA from the crime scene came from Ramirez. Sunnyvale police arrested Ramirez at his home in Maui on Aug. 2.

Ramirez was in jail in Maui awaiting an extradition hearing Wednesday to bring him to California, where he will face kidnapping, murder and rape charges.

"Behind every old murder file in every major police department, there is a person, heartbreak, and a mystery," Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. "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."

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Karen Stitt: Arrest in 1982 stabbing, killing of California girl, 15