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DNA leads to arrest of Maui man in 1982 California killing

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SUNNYVALE, Calif. — A Hawaiʻi man has been arrested after DNA technology helped investigators identify him as a suspect in the 1982 slaying of a 15-year-old girl who was abducted in Northern California from a bus stop, raped and killed, authorities said.

Karen Stitt was waiting for a bus in Sunnyvale when she disappeared in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 1982. A delivery truck driver discovered her naked body among some bushes 100 yards (91 meters) away from the bus stop, the Mercury News reported Tuesday.

Last week, Sunnyvale police arrested Gary Ramirez, 75, in Maui after they say his DNA matched the blood from Karen’s leather jacket and the 4-foot (1.2-meter) cinder block wall where the killer left her after stabbing her 59 times, the newspaper reported.

Ramirez remains incarcerated in a Maui jail awaiting an extradition hearing Wednesday to bring him to California. It was not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Santa Clara County cold case investigators say they used DNA technology linked to family tree genealogy, the same investigative process that led to the arrest and guilty plea of the Golden State Killer in 2018.

Sunnyvale police Detective Matt Hutchison said he arrested Ramirez, a man with a bad hip who appeared so shocked he could say little more than, “Oh my gosh.”

Ramirez, a retired bug exterminator, had no criminal record, police say. His older brother, Rudy Ramirez, who also lives in Maui, said he can’t imagine that his younger brother would be capable of such a horrific crime.

“I’ve never seen him violent or get angry ever,” Ramirez’s brother told the newspaper. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Three years ago, Hutchison teamed up with a genealogist who narrowed the DNA down to four brothers. Hutchison then sought out one of Gary Ramirez’s children and collected a DNA sample, which showed a high probability that the suspect was their father, he said. After that, authorities used a search warrant to swab Gary Ramirez’s mouth for a DNA sample, which a crime lab confirmed matched the DNA found at the crime scene.

When he opened the email with the DNA match, “I wanted to scream, but I can’t because I didn’t want to wake up the hotel,” Hutchinson said. “So I just took a moment to reflect.”

He opened up his laptop and clicked on the photo of Karen.

“I took a quick glance at her photo,” he said, “and I just told her, ‘We did it.’”

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
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