Somebody has recently been convicted of one of the killings attributed to the Stanford Serial Killer. He’s John Getreu. But before getting into the case, a few words about why the case intrigues me. (A recent blog suggests why these cases intrigue most of us.)
Stanford University played a big role in my life since it strongly supported the schools and youth programs in Palo Alto, California where I grew up. I rode my bike to summer jobs at Hewlett Packard’s first HQ near Sand Hill Road where the Stanford Serial Killer operated.
Turns out he murdered football coach Chuck Taylor’s daughter in 1974. The legendary Taylor compiled a 40win–29loss–2tied record at Stanford, leading the Cardinal to the 1952 Rose Bowl his first season as coach at age 31.He coached NFL star John Brodie.
The Taylor Case
The following is excerpted and modified from a Cox Media report about how DNA cracked the cold case.
“It took California detectives more than 40 years to link John Getreu to at least two brutal murders that occurred near the Stanford University campus in the 1970s.
But it took a San Mateo County jury less than an hour to find him guilty in September 2021 of killing one of those women, Janet Taylor.
Taylor, a 21-year-old sophomore at nearby Cañada College, was the youngest daughter of football legend Chuck Taylor, a Stanford grad and player who later served as head football coach and athletic director at the school.”
Getreu, 77, of Hayward, California was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Taylor.
At the trial, a friend of Taylor’s testified that she decided to hitchhike –like many young people, myself included, did in the 1970s– instead of waiting for a ride because Taylor was anxious to feed her puppy.
A truck driver found Taylor soon after strangled and dumped in a shallow ditch near the campus. Her live-in boyfriend at the time, testified at the trial that he was stunned by her death because Taylor was skilled in martial arts.
‘Janet had a brown belt,’ he said. ‘It really surprised me what happened here because I thought she’d be taking anybody apart if they tried to attack her.’
The college student fought valiantly for her life but lost. She was badly beaten in the face and strangled by hands strong enough that the ribbed pattern of her turtleneck left imprints on her neck, testimony showed.
Taylor’s rain jacket and shirt were torn down the right side, and her green corduroy pants were ripped at the crotch.
Those pants would become vital to the murder case. Getreu’s DNA was found in the area that was torn, prosecutors said.”
Getreu, who was a medical technician at Stanford Medical Center at the time of Taylor’s murder, is also charged with the murder of Leslie Marie Perlov, 21, a Stanford graduate who was last seen alive on Feb. 13, 1973, as she left work in Palo Alto.
Perlov’s car was found abandoned that same day near an old rock quarry. Deputies on horseback found her body in the Stanford hills three days later.
Like Janet Taylor, Perlov had been beaten and strangled, and there were signs she had been raped. Her nose was broken and her eyes were swollen shut from the beating she endured. Her underwear and stockings had been shoved down her throat.
Getreu is awaiting trial in the Perlov case, which is set for 2022. Ill health and a backlog due to Covid may mean that trial never takes place. Getreu’s son has said,
‘My family had no clue about my father’s past and have nothing but sympathy for all of his victims.We only knew him as a loving father and grandfather, but science doesn’t lie. With this conviction I hope these families can now have closure.”
He also urged his father to come clean about any additional crimes he may have committed.
‘She’s cute, anyway.’
When Getreu was shown photos of Perlov, one a portrait and the other a crime scene image of her brutalized body, the convicted killer’s response was chilling.
‘She’s cute, anyway,’ he said.”
‘A righteous life’
John Getreu was a convicted murderer long before he ever encountered Janet Taylor or Leslie Perlov. The son of an Army sergeant major, the Newark, Ohio, native and his family moved often. At different points in his childhood, they lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, Japan and Germany.
It was in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, that the then-18-year-old Getreu was accused of raping and murdering Margaret Williams, 15, following a 1963, dance at a youth club. Williams’ body was found on a baseball field behind the club. Like both Perlov and Taylor, Williams had been beaten and strangled.
Getreu was convicted in 1964 and sentenced to 10 years as a juvenile. At the time, he offered,
“I raped her, but it did not occur to me that I could have killed her. Just wanted to knock her out,” Getreu told the juvenile court. “I am deeply sorry for her parents, and if I could do something to bring her back, I would do it.”
Getreu served less than six years before being released under probation supervision in 1969. German court documents indicated that officials believed Getreu was likely to lead a “righteous life” if allowed to return home to his family.
Just four years after Getreu’s return to the U.S., Perlov was slain, followed by Taylor in 1974. Getreu was married at the time of the killings.
In 1975, Getreu was convicted of the statutory rape of a 17-year-old girl who was part of the Explorer Scout troop he led in Palo Alto. Getreu’s first wife, to whom he was married at that time, testified last month that he served his six-month jail sentence on weekends.
Getreu’s past came back to haunt him in November 2018 when he was linked to Perlov’s homicide through DNA. Genetic genealogy had just months before resulted in the capture of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the long-sought Golden State Killer.
Cold case detectives who gave Perlov’s case another look submitted evidence for DNA analysis. A crime lab found a male genetic profile on Perlov’s items.
Investigators then turned to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based company that specializes in genetic genealogy. Parabon’s genealogists plugged the suspected killer’s DNA into a public genealogy database and came up with a list of potential suspects.
At this point detectives surreptitiously obtained a sample of Getreu’s DNA, which matched that of Perlov’s alleged killer.
In January 2019, cold case investigators matched Getreu’s DNA profile to the genetic material found on Taylor’s pants.
Any thoughts about why Getreu raped and killed young women.
Does it seem odd that he was allegedly able to stop after the 1970s which saw a huge increase in serial killings?
Are you impressed with the ability of genetic genealogists to track down and identify the Stanford Serial Killer and the Golden State Killer?
To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.