HONOLULU (KHON2) — The 75-year-old man who’s a suspect in the 1982 cold case murder of a 15-year-old girl was transported from Maui to California on Saturday, Aug. 20, without incident. He’s currently being held in Santa Clara County jail.
Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker, with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, told KHON2 that Gary Gene Ramirez was not arraigned this week due to medical reasons. He is scheduled to be arraigned next Monday, Aug. 29.
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In 1982, 15-year-old Karen Stitt from Palo Alto, California, was last seen by her boyfriend walking to a bus stop in Sunnyvale. The next morning, a truck driver making a delivery discovered her body in the bushes at the base of a blood-stained cinderblock wall. According to the detective who investigated the case, she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 59 times.
For nearly 40 years, there were no leads in the investigation until Aug. 2 when Ramirez was arrested at his home in Makawao, Maui, in connection with her death. He faces murder, kidnapping and rape charges. If convicted, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Despite extensive investigation, there were no leads for decades. In 2000, after the advent of DNA analysis, swabs were taken from the crime scene, as well as from items collected from Stitt’s body. However, there were no matches to anyone in the system at the time.
Then in 2021, Sunnyvale DPS Detective Matt Hutchison received a tip that Stitt’s killer was likely one of four brothers from Fresno where Ramirez grew up and attended high school.
“That’s when the case and our investigation shifted,” Baker told KHON2 earlier this month.
Watch his interview below:
After serving in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s, Ramirez frequented or resided in the Bay Area, Colorado and Hawaii. Early this year, Detective Hutchison found one of Ramirez’s family members on social media.
DNA sample was then obtained from the family member and sent to the lab for comparison. Ramirez was identified as the likely source of blood and bodily fluid left at the crime scene. The Santa Clara County DA’s Crime Lab later confirmed that identification.
It took months of planning before they could arrest Ramirez on Maui. The operation was a coordinated effort between Santa Clara County, Maui and federal law enforcement authorities. Officials said the case was unsolvable 10 years ago, but advancement in DNA technology allowed this to happen.
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The case is still an active investigation. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Detective Hutchison at 408-730-7100.