Calif. Girl Was Stabbed 59 Times After Parting Ways with Boyfriend in 1982 — and Suspect Was Just Arrested

Gary Ramirez, 75, was arrested in Maui last week after a California lab allegedly linked his DNA to the scene of the crime

Karen Stitt, 15, of Palo Alto, around 1982.
Photo: Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

A Hawaii man has been arrested 40 years after the killing of a 15-year-old California girl who was stabbed 59 times.

Since 1982, the murder has remained unsolved, but recent DNA evidence has allegedly linked Gary Ramirez, 75, to Karen Stitt, who was raped and killed near a bus stop in Sunnyvale, according to the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office.

Ramirez was arrested at his home in Makawao on the island of Maui on August 2. He was formerly a resident of Fresno, Calif., authorities said, and had served in the U.S. Air Force.

Despite years of detective work, there were no "significant leads" in the cold case until 2019 when Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison followed up on a tip that determined Stitt's killer was allegedly one of four brothers from Fresno, according to a news release from the D.A.'s office.

In late April 2022, Ramirez was identified "as the likely source of blood and bodily fluid" left at the crime scene, and the Santa Clara County D.A.'s Crime Lab corroborated the link last week, per the agency.

Ramirez's arrest involved officials in Santa Clara County, Maui and federal law enforcement authorities, the D.A.'s office said, and the investigation leading up to his arrest was funded by a grant awarded to the office by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Photo of Gary Ramirez taken in 1979.
Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office

Stitt was last seen on September 2, 1982 after she and her boyfriend parted ways near the bus stop. Her nude body was found the next morning behind a blood-stained cinder block wall, per the D.A.'s office.

Ramirez will be extradited to California and then will be arraigned on murder, kidnapping and rape charges. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

It was not immediately clear if he had entered a plea or retained an attorney to comment on his behalf.

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

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